WE ARE LOCAL News in Prince William, Virginia




Should there be a speed zone in front of Colgan High School?

A study of school speed zones will be conducted ahead of a public hearing on an effort to slow traffic in front of the new Colgan High School.

Prince William County schools officials want to erect flashing signs near the school on both the north and southbound sides of the highway. When flashing, the signs would require drivers to slow from 55 mph to 35 mph on school days between 7 and 8 a.m. and 1:40 to 2:40 p.m.

Nohe called for to the review to see if the signs are warranted and asked the county’s transportation department director for a list of other comparable high schools on heavily traveled roads with school speed zones in place.

“If we’re going to set a precedent here, we need to know if there are going to be ramifications,” said Nohe.

Potomac Senior High School off Route 1 in Woodbridge and Battlefield High School off Route 15 near Haymarket do not have flashing school signs on those major thoroughfares. Both schools are located on side streets Panther Pride Drive and Graduation Drive, respectively.

Colgan High School sits on busy Route 234, a vital link between Interstates 95 and 66 in Prince William County. The road carries 33,000 cars a day, and 3,000 cars per day on weekdays while school is in session.

The date and time for the public hearing have not been set.

Student turns down $150,000, earns scholarship to dream school

WOODBRIDGE — A Woodbridge high school student turned down $150,000 in scholarship money to a prestigious school only to end up with more cash to attend the school of her dreams.

Shekinah Reese, 17, is a straight-A student who in June graduated Woodbridge Senior High School in Lake Ridge. She was captain of her high school dance team, a member of the track and field team, and attended Metropolitan School of the Arts for nine years to train in various levels of dance. She was also selected for the Center for the Fine and Performing Arts specialty program at Woodbridge Senior High School.

Reese has always had a love for film and TV, and the urge to study in the field. She took part in a high school summer program at Ithaca College in New York in 2016 for field production to earn college credit. There she had the opportunity to create a 15-minute documentary film about Ithaca’s downtown and its locals.

Afterward, impressed with her work, the college offered her more than $150,000 in tuition aid to attend the school. Reese was thrilled, but deep down she knew she was looking for something more.

“Elon has always been my dream school. They have a state-of-the-art School of Communications that reflects the education and standards that I’m seeking,” she said. (more…)

End of trailer classrooms on the horizon at Springwoods Elementary

LAKE RIDGE — Teachers and staff at Springwoods Elementary School in Lake Ridge are buzzing about an upcoming addition to the school building.

A total of 13 new classrooms and an activity room will be added to the school building in 2019. When complete, the $11.9 million renovations will allow 329 more students to attend classes at the school.

School staff recently took to Twitter to announce that some parents might see some movement of trailers on school property this summer, but it’s not related to the upcoming work:

Springwoods Elementary has seven trailers, also called learning cottages. When the new addition is complete, all of the trailers are expected to be removed.

The school located at 3815 Marquis Place in Lake Ridge opened in 1985 and currently holds 593 students. Prince Wiliam County has 128 trailer classrooms at its 60 elementary schools.

Explore summer reading at your Prince William Public Library: Young Adults


Free food, prizes, and events all summer long!

How it Works:

Explore Summer Reading is happening now until August 19. A couple of weeks ago we talked about summer reading for kids, infants through students entering 5th grade.

Today it’s all about the teens! Young adults (entering grades 6 – 12), come to any library branch to register and pick up a Punch Card, and we’ll give you your first punch. Then each time you visit the library, tell us what you’re reading and we’ll punch your card. At your second visit, we’ll give you a free food coupon. And at your sixth visit, more free food!

Grand Prizes

But wait, there’s more! We’re giving away a $100 prize at each of our 11 branches, plus one grand prize, a Beats™ Pill+. Each visit counts as an entry into the drawings, and you can earn punches for up to nine visits. Plus, write a book review and enter it on our Explore Summer Reading website, www.pwcgov.org/summerreading, and earn extra entries! You might also find your book review published to our Goodreads page, www.pwcgov.org/goodreads.

Weekly Challenges and Events

Come in each week of summer reading and complete the weekly challenge for the chance to win additional prizes. Then put your smartphone down and come to a free event, such as a cartooning workshop, art class, cooking demo, magic workshop, reptile show, laser tag party, and much more. For the full lineup, pick up a copy of Explore magazine at any library or visit our events page at www.pwcgov.org/library/events.

Then pick your smartphone back up and tag us #PWPLSsummer on social media. Find us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Tag us and we might repost! (more…)

‘I was horrified to see the hands raised in opposition to adding gender identity and sexual orientation to the non-discrimination policy for students and employees’

From an email: 

I attended the June 21 PWCS School Board meeting looking for inspiration at a time of opportunity for our County to demonstrate its values. A vote against non-discrimination is a vote for discrimination. I was horrified to see the hands raised in opposition of adding gender identity and sexual orientation to the Non-Discrimination Policy for students and employees. 
I feel pity for the opposing members that history will record their objection to protecting vulnerable students and employees, and that their legacies will be tainted by a burning and panicked hatred of Chairman Sawyers, a leader who has shown courage and foresight amidst an onslaught of outrageous attacks. 
Erika Bukva
Prince William County

Interstate 95 Southbound paving begins in Stafford County

I-95 southbound will be reduced to a single lane overnight from north of Exit 133/Route 17 to the Rappahannock River bridge on Monday ? Thursday evenings this week

Fredericksburg– A pavement repair project will close two Interstate 95 southbound lanes overnight in Stafford County on several evenings over the next two weeks between the Route 17 overpass and the Rappahannock River bridge.

Rutting has developed in the vehicle wheel path of the left and center lane of I-95 southbound between the Route 17 overpass and Rappahannock River bridge. Milling the pavement and adding new asphalt is needed to correct the rutting. (more…)

Spotted mountain lion slows dismissal at Chris Yung Elementary

From Prince William schools: 

“About 3:20 p.m. today, Chris Yung Elementary School was placed in secure-the-building status because a mountain lion was spotted near the school.

This action is precautionary and staff and students are safe. Teachers will walk students to their buses at dismissal at 3:50 p.m. One bus will be loaded at a time. Parents are asked to come pick up their children if they are walkers.  

Updates will be placed on the school website, https://chrisyunges.pwcs.edu/

Governor signs anti-bullying bill into law at Forest Park High School

From a press release from the Office of  Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn: 

“On Tuesday, June 6, Governor Terry McAuliffe signed HB 1709 at Forest Park High School in Woodbridge. 

This law will require the policies and procedures prohibiting bullying that are contained in each school board’s code of student conduct to direct the principal to notify the parent of any student involved in an alleged incident of bullying of the status of any investigation within five school days of the allegation.”

From Prince William County Public Schools: 

“Senator Jeremy McPike (District 29) and Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn (District 41) bill sponsors, flanked the Governor as he signed Senate Bill 1117 and House Bill 1709.

McPike’s bill, SB 1117, requires school counselors to receive training in trauma, suicide, and substance abuse when renewing licensure from the state. Forest Park High School was selected as the site for the ceremony because it is well known for its annual Suicide Awareness Walk led by students, many of whom experienced a loss or knew someone who has.

Filler-Corn’s bill, HB 1709, requires School Boards to adopt policies to inform parents when a child is involved in bullying, either as a victim or perpetrator.”

From the Office of Sen. Jeremy McPike: 

“The Governor signed Delegate Filler-Corn’s bullying bill and Senator McPike’s suicide bill at Forest Park HS yesterday because of the ongoing work the FPHS students do on suicide prevention. This year was the third year… students organized the Suicide Awareness Walk along Spriggs Road. Senator McPike suggested Forest Park to give these students, as well as the advocates at Payton’s Project and the David J Cobb Foundation, the opportunity to witness the signing and meet the Governor.” 

‘Explore Summer Reading program is all about celebrating the joy of reading for fun’

Ah, Summer! It’s time for flip-flops, popsicles, lazy days at the pool, and a break from school. It’s also time for Summer reading at your public library! We’re talking prizes for reading, fun weekly challenges and tons of events and activities all Summer long. And it’s all free, of course!

Before we get into the details, let’s talk about why Summer reading is so important to school-age students. Maybe you’ve heard of the “Summer slide”? It’s the learning loss that happens during the summer when kids and teens don’t read or participate in educational activities. But don’t worry, because public library Summer reading programs help combat Summer slide. Research shows that children who are engaged in Summer reading programs perform better academically when they return to school in the Fall. And the best part is that your kids and young adults get a quality experience at no cost. (more…)

340 Prince William School buses will get missing safety feature

Prince William County must have 340 school buses retrofitted.

The brake interlock system was missing from these buses sold to the school division after March 24, 2011. The interlock stops accidental engagement of the bus’ transmission by requiring the driver to step on the brake before releasing the bus’ parking brake.

The manufacturers of the identified buses will pay the entire cost of the retrofit process, according to Prince William County Public Schools spokeswoman Irene Cromer.

The work will be done over the summer and will not affect service to county school children.

The brake interlock system does not impact the safe operation of the vehicle.

“Thomas Built Buses was recently made aware of this issue by Sonny Merryman, Inc., the Thomas dealer. All three OEMs selling large buses into the Commonwealth of Virginia are experiencing the same issue on buses built after February of 2011 when the specification was enacted. This issue does not impact the operation of the vehicle. Sonny Merryman, Inc. and Thomas Built Buses are working to ensure all buses in question are in compliance with the Commonwealth’s requirement.” stated Nicholas Smith, a Thomas bus spokesman via email to Potomac Local.

Statewide, some 4,000 buses are in need of the retrofit.

Archery grows in popularity in county elementary schools

Archery is growing in popularity in Prince William County Public Schools.

Rosa Parks Elementary School in Dale City sent home letters to parents late last month notifying them of the archery program that will be offered during the school’s physical education classes, as well as giving them the opportunity to opt out their child from the program.

Here’s a portion of the letter: (more…)

Manassas students fill up on ‘second-chance breakfast’

It’s 9 a.m., and a quiet middle school cafeteria suddenly fills with the voices of hungry students making a dash for the breakfast line.

On the menu: Mini blueberry pancakes, fruit, milk, and juice. Students walk through the line, grab their favorite quick-serve breakfast items and find a table to sit, eat, and chat with their friends.

“I eat it every day. I love the pancakes,” said Christopher, 14.

The students at Grace E. Metz Middle School in Manassas sit for about 10 minutes, scarf breakfast, and then it’s back to class.

On Tuesday, Virginia First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe and State Sen. Jeremy McPike joined them to recognize a nutritional milestone: getting more children to eat school breakfast.

The Manassas public school won its division in a contest to increase the number of students who eat breakfast. There were 19% more Metz students eating school breakfast between October and December 2016 versus the same time the year before. McAuliffe on Tuesday, along with “No Kid Hungry Virginia” announced the winners of the Virginia Breakfast Challenge, a campaign to increase school breakfast participation across the state. (more…)

Prince William County Public Schools 2017 End of Year Guide

From Prince William County Public Schools: 

Dismissal Schedule for Last School Day, June 15

If there are no unexpected closures that impact the school schedule for the remainder of this school year, the last day of school for the 2016–17 school year is scheduled to be Thursday, June 15.

The standard early dismissal plans for June 15, the last day of school, are as follows:

Elementary and middle school students will be dismissed on a half-day schedule.
High school dismissal is set for 10 a.m.
June 15 dismissal times for all schools will be posted on the Transportation Services web page as soon as they are available.
PACE students will follow the high school schedule.
There will be no preschool special education, Title I preschool, Head Start, or Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI or PVI+) classes on June 15.
Lunch will not be served in the high schools.
Lunch will be served in the elementary and middle schools.
SACC will open at dismissal for students enrolled in the before-and-after, or in the after-school-only program. Next Generation will open at dismissal for all enrolled students. All SACC and Next Generation sites will remain open until their normal 6:30 p.m. closing time.

High School Exam Dismissal Schedule

Prince William County Public Schools have announced an 11:30 a.m. dismissal time for high school seniors during final exams on the following schedule:

May 11–16

May 17–22

May 25–31
Governor’s School @ Innovation Park
Potomac High School
Stonewall Jackson High School

May 26–June 1
Battlefield High School
Patriot High School

May 31–June 8
New Directions School

June 1–6
Forest Park High School
Gar-Field High School

June 2–7
Brentsville District High School
Freedom High School
Hylton High School
Osbourn Park High School
Woodbridge High School

The high school final exam dismissal schedule for students in grades 9, 10, and 11 will be as follows, with the last day of school for the 2016–17 school year on June 15.

June 12: Students will have two exams and will dismiss according to the usual dismissal schedule.
June 13: Students will have two exams and will dismiss at 11:30 a.m.
June 14: Students will have two exams and will dismiss at 11:30 a.m.
June 15: Students will have one exam and will dismiss at 10 a.m.

2017 Graduation Dates Announced

School  Day  Date Time Venue
Battlefield High School Tuesday June 6 1 p.m.  Jiffy Lube Live
Brentsville District High School  Saturday June 10 10 am.  Brentsville District High School
Forest Park High School  Friday  June 9 2 p.m.  GMU Eagle Bank Arena
Freedom High School  Saturday  June 10 7 p.m.  Eagle Bank Arena
Gar-Field High School  Friday  June 9 7 p.m.  Eagle Bank Arena
Governors School (Senior Ceremony) Saturday  June 3 1o a.m.  GMU Sci-Tech Campus — Verizon Auditorium
Hylton High School  Satruday  June 10 9:30 a.m.  GMU Eagle Bank Arena
PACE East (Senior Awards) Friday  May 19 9:15 a.m. PACE East Gym
PACE West  Thursday  May 25 12:30 p.m.  PACE West
Patriot High School  Tuesday  June 6 7 p.m.  Jiffy Lube Live 
Potomac High School  Monday  June 5 2 p.m.  Jiffy Lube Live
Stonewall Jackson Senior High School  Monday  June 5 7 p.m.  Jiffy Lube Live 
Summer School and Adult Education  Thursday August 3 7:30 p.m.  Gar-Field High School Auditorium 
Thomas Jefferson High School  Saturday  June 17 7 p.m  GMU Eagle Bank Arena
Woodbridge Senior High School  Saturday  June 10 9 a.m.  Woodbirdge Senior High School 

Events scheduled at Jiffy Lube Live Pavilion and GMU Eagle Bank Arena are subject to change.


Graham Park Middle School competes in robotics challenge

From an email to Potomac Local: 

“Graham Park Middle School from Triangle, Virginia qualified for the VEXIQ World Competition in Louisville, Kentucky which runs from 23 through 25 April 2017.  The two teams traveled to represent the school and are currently in deep competition.

Graham Park Middle Schools team 3613M …they all worked so hard…ranked 25 out of 77 in their division…there were over 300 teams competing in middle school.

The team is led by Oscar Mcculough the teams are comprised of 6th and 7th graders. Team 3613S Sydney To, Simran Patibanda, Comfort Ohajunwa, Shakir Said and Team 3613M Reagan Kitts, Mya Aure, Kirstin Palmateer, Chelsea Rodriguez, Jose Rodriguez.

Teams competed throughout the year and qualified for Worlds in February 2017.”



‘For the first time, Occoquan Elementary Principal Hamish Brewer was at a loss for words’

Occoquan Elementary School Principal Hamish Brewer, already known for being an outgoing educator who likes to merge fun and learning in the classroomearned national award for outstanding leadership Tuesday.

It was presented to him while we were covering Betsy DeVos’ visit to nearby Ashland Elementary. So, here’s a report from the Prince William County Public Schools Communications Office: 

For the first time, Occoquan Elementary Principal Hamish Brewer was at a loss for words. He was stunned speechless when Jim Baldwin, executive director of the Virginia Association for Elementary School Principals, presented the National Distinguished Principal Award for Virginia to him at a surprise school assembly this morning.

“I’ll accept this for the team,” Brewer said, crediting students, staff, and parents for the school’s tremendous performance since he has been at the helm. Occoquan Elementary has high numbers of low-income families and non-English speaking learners. Earlier this year, the school was named a National Distinguished Title 1 School.

“I love beating the odds every day,” Brewer says. “We have a relentless passion for children, and a relentless passion for excellence.”

Mr. Brewer has formed a magical collaboration and synergy of a village that has taken on the world to show that all children learn, love, and celebrate their educational experiences. He has created a highoctane, highachieving and nurturing educational environment,” said an official with the Virginia Association of Elementary School Principals, quoting from a letter nominating Brewer for the awardStudents say Principal Brewer is visionary, caring, and relentless and they know that he loves them.

It took clever planning to pull off the surprise assembly this morning, but Occoquan Elementary School Assistant Principal Bill Knight, Associate Superintendent Craig Gfeller, and a handful of others managed to do that. While several staff members kept Principal Brewer in his office chatting, students quietly left their classrooms and assembled in the cafeteria.

“Why are we talking?” Brewer thought to himself. “We’ve got work to do!” Then a call came over the public address system asking him to come to the cafeteria; again, puzzlement: “What is this for?” Brewer thought, “It’s too early for the goodbye celebration….we’ve got SOLs coming up!” Little did he know.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visits Ashland Elementary School


PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — Finding childcare is this area is not only expensive, but it can also be nearly impossible.

That’s the message Air Force Lt. Col. Rojan Robotham brought to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Tuesday when she toured Ashland Elementary School near Woodbridge. The airman urged DeVos to continue funding childcare programs through the Department of Education.

When they’re not in school, Robotham, who lives in Prince William County and not on a military base, places her in children private day care. The cost for private daycare vs. the cost she would pay to use a child development center on a base is about double.

“I live in Woodbridge, and I can’t drive my kids to the closest CDC at Quantico and make it to work on time,” she said.

And in some cases, the need for private daycare is so great there’s often not enough to go around in the region.

Robotham was one of a handful of military members and their families who spoke with DeVos during roundtable session on Tuesday. With a concentration of military families who live nearby, the school was recognized for its ability to cater to the needs of military children and spouses who are used to moving around.

“I worry about the experiences my son is going to have, and if he is going to have the correct requirements to graduate high school after we move to California,” said Air Force Col. Ceir Coral.

Coral’s son now attends Forest Park High School, and his daughter goes to Ashland. He stated that they chose to move into the Ashland neighborhood because both schools had a reputation for being military-friendly.

The school is also known for recognizing military holidays and special events.

“We don’t [celebrate] Veteran’s Day. We do Veteran’s month,” quipped Jacks.

Andy Jacks, principal at Ashland, said he wore a red, white, and blue striped suit and posted a photo of himself wearing on Twitter to show families how military-friendly his school is. He led DeVos around the school on a guided tour that included stops in classrooms, a computer lad, and a reading room where DeVos sat on the floor and read to children.

DeVos, appointed Education Secretary by President Trump, was greeted by a group of protesters who stood in the rain holding signs that stated “Welcome Secretary DeVos” and “Fund Public Education.”

The secretary is a supporter of school vouchers and charter schools. She spent about an and a half today during her visit Prince William County. She did more listening to students, teachers, and parents than talking.

“It was a wonderful welcome here, and just to see the faces of the children I met here, that’s the best,” she told reporters.

U.S. Education Secretary DeVos will tour Ashland Elementary Tuesday

We first tipped you last week that U.S. Education Secretary Betsy Devos will visit a Prince William County Public School on Tuesday. 

Today, we learn that school is Ashland Elementary near Manassas, located at 15300 Bowman’s Folly Drive. 

Here’s more in a statement from Prince William County Public Schools: 

U.S. Education Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will tour Prince William County Public Schools’ Ashland Elementary to see the amazing work being done to educate every child, and especially to aid military-connected families during this “Month of the Military Child.”

“A tour by Principal Andy Jacks will allow the Secretary to join in classroom activities with teachers and students. The Secretary will also meet with military-connected students, parents, and staff members to learn of the outstanding ongoing efforts to serve this important part of the Ashland Elementary community.”

The tour is expected to last between 9:30 and 11 a.m. A total of 830 children attend Ashland Elementary School.

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