WE ARE LOCAL News in Prince William, Virginia




Chemist seeks Stafford school board seat



A local chemist has stepped up to run for the Stafford County School Board.

Dr. Dean Fetterolf, an analytical chemist is seeking the Rock Hill district seat as an independent candidate. He’s lived in the county for 21 years, according to a press release.

The current Rock Hill district representative is Patricia Healy, an attorney who has served in the position since 2000 and lived in the county for about 30 years.

Of Healy, Fetterolf said, “It’s disheartening that the four-term incumbent has led a change in the school board’s focus from the needs of the students to the wants of the adults. I share the growing concerns of many of the parents of our 27,462 students.”

“After 16 years as a member and chairperson of the school board, the Rock Hill incumbent can only point to negative Department of Education statistics that ranks Stafford as the 10th largest district but also ranks 85th out of 132 in per pupil total funding. The local per pupil contribution is 22 percent below the state average,” stated a press release.

Fetterolf reportedly served as the chair of the Stafford County School Board’s Finance and Budget Advisory committee from 2007 to 2011. He was also a member of a Capital Improvement Plan committee, a budget and compensation task force, and a previous middle school realignment committee. 

“The county is growing. And, for the first time in 16 years, Rock Hill can count on there being a change of focus to student development and not housing development,” Fetterolf said in a release. The release also reported that, if elected, he will “stand up to the board of supervisors to mitigate the impact of thousands of new homes on the school’s infrastructure and operating budgets,” though it didn’t specify how.

“County budget priorities are out of whack. We don’t need plastic grass football fields when our high schools are overcrowded.”

If elected, Fetterolf plans to work on reducing class size, making Stafford school salaries more competitive with neighboring counties, and program parity.

A formal announcement of his campaign is scheduled for April 20 at 7 p.m., at the Porter branch of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library.

Virginia’s top schools chief says the classroom hasn’t changed much in 100 years

Anne Holton on Tuesday praised initiatives like Manassas Park’s eBackpack program that puts tablet computers in the hands of students.

Holton, who is Virginia’s secretary of education and wife of Senator Timothy Kaine, said this effort also known as “flipping the classroom” is giving students a new way to learn.

“It’s a new way of learning. The students are having the resources at their fingertips as to be able to problem solve together as opposed to an old way of looking at it: “turn the machines off, you’ve got to memorize everything,” said Holton.

Business leaders gathered Tuesday at the Manassas Park Community Center to hear the state’s top education official speak on the state of schools in the Commonwealth. Holton said using more technology in the classroom allows students to learn where to find information, how to communicate better and present that information to their classmates, and to problem solve.

Holton said the use of technologies like giving students tablet computers is an idea that is catching on across the state. Not all jurisdictions will be able to implement the technology programs to due to school’s inability to fund such improvements. There is some help from state education officials, said Holton.

In many places, the classroom still looks as it did 100 years ago, she added.

“It’s everywhere we have a structure that says ‘kids are supposed to sit in their seats for literally for 140 hours per course, per school year, and that’s just one example of way in which are not traditionally geared to the type of individualized education we can be doing with technology,” said Holton.

She adds more students need to have the ability to leave the classroom and connect with businesses in the community.

Kindergarten registration now open in Stafford and Fredericksburg

Stock Photo

Stock Photo

Stafford County Public Schools are open for Kindergarten registration for the 2015-16 school year. If you have a child who turns 5 years old by Sept. 30, 2015, the time to sign up for kindergarten is now. 

Kindergarten enrollment will be held from April 13 through May 15. 

On Monday, April 13, all Stafford County Public Schools will hold a special enrollment day with hours from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. to register children. 

Fredericksburg Public Schools will hold its special enrollment day on Wednesday, May 6 with hours from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. to register children.

In order to register your child, you must bring a photo ID, an official birth certificate and proof of residence. Proof of residence may be a deed, a lease, a tax bill, utility bills, an insurance policy and such. A list of acceptable proof of residence items is available online.

The first 50 children registered in each school will receive a special gift.

This special kindergarten enrollment day is a collaboration between Smart Beginnings Rappahannock Area and the five school divisions. According to its website, Smart Beginnings Rappahannock Area is an early childhood initiative designed to ensure young children are prepared for success in school and success in life. It serves the city of Fredericksburg, as well as Spotsylvania, Stafford, King George and Caroline counties.

There will also be a kindergarten readiness event at the Children’s Museum of Richmond (Fredericksburg location) on Thursday, May 7 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, May 16 from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., with free admission for children and parents.

For more information, visit staffordschools.net or stafford.schoolfusion.us for Stafford County, or cityschools.com for the City of Fredericksburg.

Weems elementary wins education award in Manassas

Weems Elementary School in Manassas has been awarded the 2015 National Excellence in Urban Education award.

According to a release, the criterion for the award includes rigorous curriculum, effective instruction, the ability to relate, and continuous improvement across demographic groups in the school.

As winners of the award, Weems will be honored at the 2015 National Symposium on High-Performing Urban Schools in May, and will receive $2,500.


Make-up plan approved for Stafford schools

The seal of Stafford County Public Schools.

The seal of Stafford County Public Schools.

The Stafford County School Board has approved a make-up plan for all of the days students missed in school this winter, due to inclement weather. 

The school board voted to use the waiver method to make up the school days missed, according to Valerie Cottongim, Public Information Officer for Stafford County Public Schools.

According to a release, the last day of school in Stafford will now be June 12, and will include an early release day.

Early release days that were scheduled for April 3, May 22, and June 10 were all removed, said a release. 

Despite the removal of these early release days, June 11 will remain an early release day for middle and high school students, and will be a full day for elementary students. 

Additionally, June 15 and 16 will remain as teacher work days, according to a release.

GMU to host four STEM competitions for kids on April 9

On April 9, George Mason University (GMU) and the Potomac Environmental Research and Education Center (PERC) will be hosting four STEM competitions for 1,000 students.

The competitions will take place at GMU’s Fairfax campus, and will host students from schools around the region.

“This particular event has been happening for the last three years, and it’s always hosted by George Mason University. It’s not your traditional competition…the key difference is these kids are actually tasked with making a real tangible difference in their community,” said Elizabeth Striano, an organizer for the event and graduate student.

The ‘Caring for Our Watersheds’ competition is for 6 to 8 graders and involves students presenting a project they completed to better their community.

“They’ve mobilized and organized a project, and implemented it…the top finalists are going to come [on Thursday] and make their presentations, and there will be awards given out for those projects,” said Striano.

Students will have two other opportunities to present their ecological and STEM projects at the event in the EcoTeams Projects competition and the Recycled Mascot competition.

“Children can come and display the projects that they’ve done that have helped to protect the environment,” commented Striano.

One of the most exciting components of the events is the KidWind Regional Wind Turbine construction challenge, a competition that is hosted nationally.

“This is a competition that happens throughout the United States…[its] part of a much larger national competition, where kids from all over the country go to their regional areas first and compete…they are competing to see who can build the best wind turbine, to see how much power output they can produce,” stated Striano.

According to Striano, GMU and PERC are hosting the competition as a way to foster interest in STEM careers in area students.

“George Mason has become somewhat of a leader in STEM education in the area…they’ve reached out in a variety of different ways to the regional community to ensure that kids have that skill set. And I think it’s just a natural extension of everything they’re trying to do,” said Striano.

Additionally, high schools will be present at the campus to tour the facilities and learn more about the university’s STEM program.

UVA to launch new sexual misconduct policy in coming weeks

Months after a Rolling Stone article detailed an alleged rape of a University of Virginia (UVA) student, the university’s president Teresa Sullivan has announced a new sexual misconduct policy that will be taking effect.

Sullivan, who was elected to the position back in 2010, spoke with Potomac Local about the new policy.

“It differs quite a lot from the one in 2011…one [way] is that it covers both employees and students. We used to have one for faculty and staff and one for students,” said Sullivan.

According to Sullivan, the new policy was being worked on prior to the Rolling Stone article being released, but once the story was released, the university had to reassess the policy.

“We started [this new policy] last year, working on a new policy because of new guidance that came out…we had posted this just about the time the Rolling Stone story came – we posted it for 30 days of public comment. Well, the 30 days got extended and it turned out we got 600 comments, so we spent 6 weeks reading and analyzing the public comment and thinking about it – and we really went back to the drawing board,” Sullivan commented.

Sullivan stated that because UVA is a public university, a lot of their policies are influenced by the guidance of the federal government, as well as the state legislature. This guidance was part of what prompted a change in the university’s sexual misconduct policy.

“Since 2011 there’s been a lot of change – both in the legislation, and in the guidance we have received from the Department of Education, and the Office of Civil Rights…in the commonwealth of Virginia we also had some new legislation passed,” said Sullivan.

One of the main goals for the new policy is to provide individuals with options, and make it more understandable for students and faculty.

“We’ve also done a lot more I think in terms of providing due process for the person the complaint is lodged against. We’ve put in a lot more in the way of resources, so that if what you want is counseling – you know we have offices you can go to for counseling – if you want to report, we have a lot of detail about how you can do that report. We’ve tried to make this…pretty accessible so that it’s written in plain English, and not legal jargon,” commented Sullivan.

Sullivan stated that while the new policy may not heal the wounds and controversy surrounding UVA in relation to the Rolling Stone article, she hopes that the policy will bring about conversation and persuade victims of sexual misconduct to come forward.

“I hope that this will be a helpful step…even if we simply get people to talk about this with one another, I think that it’s a useful step. The most important thing we’d like to do is to encourage people that think they’ve had something happen to them, which could be forbidden under the policy, to come forward. We can give them confidentiality…if you choose to come forward, you don’t have to go through a disciplinary process…we give you the options,” Sullivan stated.

Manassas Park High School lets students lead parent-teacher conferences

School hopes change will motive students to perform better  

We all know how parent-teacher conferences usually go. A long, exasperated groan from students and a stressful sigh from their parents. Most parents don’t even end up showing up, and the ones that do get a lecture about the things their child is doing wrong, not how they are progressing. This can add unnecessary pressure on students, making them feel like they’re not doing well enough.

Manassas Park High School Principal Dr. Deborah Bergeron and the have strived to change that this year by initiating student-led conferences run by students, not teachers. The hope is that this new method of conferences will increase parent participation and help them see how their child is progressing in a positive way.

The idea came from other new changes at MPHS this year. There is a focus on new, positive ways to get students more involved in their learning and excited about school. There is more focus on students self-managing themselves and being able to use student choice such as in choosing how to present projects and working more independently. An example of this is the new social contracts that were implemented in all classes as part of the “Capturing Kids’ Hearts” program. Contracts were created with student collaboration about how students want to be treated in their class environments. This new style of conferences has been made to tie in with some of the new changes. 

 “I believe these new conferences will be very helpful as the old style of conferences didn’t mesh with all of the new changes made this year,”said Manassas Park High School English and Theatre teacher Ms. Ignatius.

During conferences, students showed their parents how they were making progress in a class and how they were growing. This related to the self-managing style being focused on this year, as students decided how the conference with their parents should be led.

“The conferences worked well because they provided a positive and different atmosphere that was less serious than traditional parent-teacher conferences, and parents were able to know what was going on,” said sophomore Nafeesa Lodi.

Students were able to show their strengths and what they are excel in, as well as where they need to improve, and what they could do to improve in that area. Students also chose work that they wanted to show to their parents and give them their point of view on their work. Prior to conferences, students filled out a survey every week self-evaluating themselves on how they thought they were performing in their classes. Parents were able to view the results of the survey and see how their child evaluated themselves. Elective classes also had booths set up in the main hallways displaying student work.

Sophomore Caitlin Lawrence liked the new conference style.“The school should continue to do these conferences again next year,” she said.

Jessie Smith writes for the MPHS Script student newspaper and contributed this piece to Manassas Local.

Rippon Middle to see additional classrooms, county deals with lack of space for new schools

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As part of Prince William County’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP), Rippon Middle School is undergoing an addition of eight classrooms, while the county tackles the issue of running out of space for future school sites.

According to Phil Kavits, Communication Director for Prince William County Schools, the addition at Rippon Middle School is being done to deal with overcrowding.

“[Rippon’s addition] is slated to open in September 2016, as at cost of approximately $7.4 million. It will relieve overcrowding stemming from enrollment growth. Rippon has a capacity of 1139 students. By 2016, it is projected to be at 109% of current capacity, which would obviously addressed by the new space,” said Kavits.

While the Rippon Middle School addition is just one of the school projects mapped out in the CIP, there is currently a struggle to find enough space to build future schools in the county.

There is currently a requirement that 80 acres must be available for a school site, and this is a challenge, particularly in the eastern end of the county.

“If you look at our CIP [Capital Improvement Program], it provides a comprehensive listing of how many [school] sites we need. If you look forward through the next ten years, we need another 10 or 15 sites. There is an acknowledgment that with less space, we’ve got to take the building up…the footprint of a building, like in a high school, the building itself is one thing – but the other part is a football stadium, softball stadium, baseball stadium, practice fields…it’s just a substantial amount of land to do it,” said David Cline, Associate Superintendent at Prince William County Public Schools.

Cline stated that nearby Fairfax County Public Schools has purchased commercial office space to accommodate students, but there is an issue with this, as there is no open space for recreation functions on the site.

According to Cline, the county is looking at several options, including working to reduce the required acreage to build a school site.

“If it’s a matter of moving it from 80 [acres] to…60 acres, it would reduce the number of fields on it. Not eliminate them – but reduce them. That’s certainly an avenue. The other one that we probably would be considering…we may well be building on a 60 to 80 acre site in the county, but adjusting boundaries, in order to provide those facilities to kids,” said Cline.

Why were robots placed into the Manassas Park Community Center pool?

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Students came to the Manassas Park Community Center on Friday and placed robots in the swimming.

No ordinary robots, the students built Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) as part of the Northern Virginia SeaPerch Challenge. Working with the SeaPerch, an underwater robotics program, students built their submersibles using a kit made of low-cost, easy to use parts.  The program teaches basic engineering, science, and math concepts, and tool safety.

Students also explore naval architecture and marine and ocean engineering principles. The SeaPerch name comes form the USS Perch, a World War II-era submarine, according to the organization’s website.

School board reverses decision on transgender student in Stafford

Last night, the Stafford County School Board reversed an earlier decision to allow a transgender fourth-grade student to use the girls’ bathroom – even though the student is biologically a male.

The unanimous decision means that the individual, a student at Hartwood Elementary, now has to use a single-stall restroom, staff bathroom or the restroom of their biological gender.

The school board chamber was full during last night’s meeting.

Nearly two dozen people spoke on the matter — including the father of the student impacted.

School board chairwoman Nanette Kidby read the county schools’ non-discrimination policy aloud during the meeting, before opening it up for public comment.

The policy states that they will not discriminate against any person on the basis of race, sex, age, color, religion, national origin, political affiliations or disability.

“Title IX has been interpreted to require school systems to permit a transgender student to use the restroom consistent with the gender with which he or she identifies,” said Rick Fitzgerald, Executive Director of Human Resources for Stafford County Public Schools, stated in a letter.

Most of the people who spoke out against the school allowing the child to use the restroom of the biologically opposite sex wore large stickers on their clothing that said “Save Our Schools.”

The opponents mainly cited privacy issues and the safety of their children as reasons for not allowing people of the biologically opposite sex to share bathrooms, locker rooms, locker room showers or dressing rooms. Some speakers mentioned personal values as the reason for their objection.

“To have this forced upon us and have all of our values nullified is dangerous,” said Brian Bednar, continuing “We have male and female. We are all made that way.”

Davis named dean for arts at George Mason University

Rick Davis, the long-time Executive Director for the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas, has been named as the new Dean for George Mason University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts.

Davis, who has been working with the university since 1992, will be in charge of overseeing seven academic programs and two performing arts centers in his new role.

“I have worked on both academic, and non-academic fronts…I’ve had about five different [roles] at the University. The first was running our theater company, and chairing the theater department. And then I became interim director of the Institute of the Arts, which is a predecessor to the college that we now have. Then artistic director for our Center of the Arts in Fairfax, and then Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education, and then I came to the Hylton [Performing Arts] Center in 2011,” said Davis.

The appointment comes after the current dean, Bill Reeder, decided to retire from the position.

“[The current dean] is retiring as Dean, although he’s staying on at George Mason as a faculty member in our management – which we’re very happy about…there was a nation search, that basically took from September till just now…I’m very honored and humbled to be the appointee,” said Davis.

While Davis is excited to get started as dean, he is no rush to transition a successor to the Hylton Center.

“We’re going to take our time and plan for an orderly succession at the Hylton. We don’t know what shape that will take – but I intend to remain in place at the Hylton for a while, because we currently have so many irons in the fire – so many things underway. I don’t see stepping away from that abruptly,” Davis commented.

According to Davis, his work over the years at the university, specifically as executive director at the Hylton Center has primed him for working as a dean.

“I think that my role at the Hylton has been to be a very public advocate for the arts as a whole, and for our work in the community. And I think that’s a good training ground for being a dean – you have to represent accurately and enthusiastically a whole range of art forms. And you have to be comfortable working across political spectrums, and fundraising and the community and all of those things are valuable in the toolkit of a dean,” said Davis.

There has been no announced start date for Davis to take up his new post at George Mason University as of yet. The Hylton Center announced their newest season lineup of performances last week.

Groundbreaking tomorrow for new high-tech Baldwin school in Manassas

The Manassas City School Board will be holding a groundbreaking ceremony tomorrow at 1 p.m. in Manassas, on the site of the new Baldwin Elementary and Intermediate schools.

The two schools will be built on the same site and will accommodate the growth of students in Manassas City, according to a release.

Manassas City Public Schools recently awarded the construction contract for the projects to Schiebel Construction out of Huntington, Maryland, according to Jeff Abt, the Executive Director of Student and Administrative Support Services for the school system.

Additionally, Abt was a former principal at the original Baldwin Elementary School from 1997 to 2005.

“This has been a twenty plus year idea…so getting to where we are now is just really exciting. It’s taken a long time getting there, but we’re now building a school where the…building is very flexible,” said Abt.

The project will cost just over $32 million in construction costs, which is being paid through bond funds, according to Abt.

“[This] will help with our overcrowding in our current intermediate school. The school will be approximately 1,000 students, 700 for [kindergarten through fourth grade] and 300 for the [fifth and sixth grade]…It’s going to replace our existing Baldwin Elementary School. It was a building that was built in 1958. And the new school is being relocated on Tudor Lane next to our high school,” Abt said.

According to initial design plans for the project, the site will have two distinct entrances, with PreK through fourth grade on the elementary side, and grades 5-6 on the intermediate side.

The elementary and intermediate school will be split up on each side of the site, but there will be some shared space between students, including the gymnasium.

Abt stated that the school would be built with the latest technology, with today’s learners in mind.

“What this school [will have] is learning neighborhoods outside of each floor – it’s three floors. And there’s a lot of glass, so that a teacher can have a small group outside of the classroom, and still be able to see them, with a larger group within the classroom,” said Abt, continuing, “Our computer labs will literally be in the learning neighborhoods. They won’t be in a room, like you would traditionally think with a computer lab. There will be a multitude of smart boards in the neighborhoods, potentially monitors in the neighborhoods. So it’s going to be tons of technology.”

The project is scheduled for completion by January 2017, but there are hopes that it will be completed sooner.

“[We have] hopes of potentially moving in sooner. The construction company would like to see if they can accelerate the construction of the project,” said Abt.

The groundbreaking ceremony is open to the public.

You can celebrate Fred M. Lynn Middle School’s 50th anniversary

Fred M. Lynn Middle School will celebrate 50 years on Friday.

Staff, students, and faculty will hold a gathering at 6 p.m. at the middle school in Woodbridge celebrate its “golden jubilee.”

Students in the school’s chorus and band will perform. There will also be a performance from the school’s dance team. Fred Lynn’s cheerleaders will also perform at the event.

Afterward, food and refreshments will be served, and parents and former students are invited to catch up on old times.

“Some students who attended the school 20 to 25 years ago will be able to get a bite to eat and at the same time reacquainted with their old school and each other,” said principal Jorge Neves.

A slideshow featuring images of the school over the years will be shown during the reception. Student art will also be on display.

The school was named after influential Prince William County School Board member Fred M. Lynn. It opened in 1964.

Fred Lynn’s family members – his two daughters Laddie and Becky, and his grandson are expected to speak at the event.

Today, the school has more than 1,000 students. Fred Lynn Middle School is an International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme Candidate World School and has a concentration in French and Spanish language education.

Neves said Prince William County Public Schools has kept the building in excellent working order over the years. The school has a new boiler system, new furniture, as Smart Boards in classrooms, computer labs, and science labs.

The principal credits great teachers, his fellow administrators, and partnerships with the area business community with the success of his school.

Friday’s event is free to attend.

Why George Mason University will drop ‘Prince William’ from its campus’ name

George Mason campus outside Manassas to be known for science and technology



George Mason University will rebrand its Prince William Campus at Innovation Park outside Manassas.

In a matter of weeks, the campus will soon be known as the George Mason University Center for Science and Technology. The school will drop the Prince William moniker used since the campus opened in 1997.

“We want to send a strong message that every time people talk about this campus that is it known fro the cutting edge work that is being done here,” George Mason University President Angel Cabrera told Potomac Local. “It will always be our location in Prince William, outside of Manassas for sure, but is sending a message on what we do here, and it’s part of our strategic plan where we are going to make our science and technology programs grow.”

The name change also means more of Mason’s engineering programs, as well as the university’s more “lab intensive” classes, will move to the science and tech center in Prince William. There is more excess space at the Prince William facility house such classes than there is at the university’s main campus in Fairfax, added Cabrera.

George Mason University sits at the heart of Innovation Park, a 1,600 acre, public-private cooperative effort to bring research firms, bio-manufacturing businesses, data centers, as well as other corporate offices to the center at the intersection of Route 234 and University Boulevard.

In recent years, Innovation has welcomed a new biotech firm and the Virginia Serious Game Institute, designed to foster creativity in video game design.

Cabrera said Mason is committed to working with Prince William County in making Innovation Park a success.

“We would all love [Innovation Park] to grow faster, but the momentum is there,” said Cabrera.

As more universities across the country focus more on science, math, and technology, Prince William’s top official says he won’t miss the Prince William moniker.

“This is phenomenal…this will mean the focus on investment in the future for George Mason University will be at its Prince William campus,” said

Prince William Board of Supervisors Chairman, At-large Corey Stewart.

The 134-acre campus attracts more than 4,000 students. It has classrooms, libraries, recreation, and auditorium space. The campus is also home to the Freedom Aquatic and Fitness Center, the Hylton Performing Arts Center, and the Mason Enterprise Center business incubator.

Prince William to receive $10.5M for new preschool program

Prince William County will be receiving $10.5 million dollars over the next four years to start a new Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI+) program for preschoolers.

The county has had a Head Start and VPI program for several years, but this new VPI+, which is set to start in September, will allow more children to receive preschool services.

While the Head Start and VPI programs were funded by state and local dollars in the past, this new preschool initiative will help the county to provide programs without as much financial strain, according to Phil Kavits, the Director of Communication Services for Prince William County Schools. 

Kavits stated that previous state grants provided for preschool programming on the local level required millions of dollars in exact matching funds, which came out of the county’s budget each year.

“The difference between the VPI+ and VPI is VPI is funded by the state and some local dollars. VPI+ is a brand new grant that the state, the Department of Education at the state level, just received from the federal government,” said Kathy Channell, Administrative Coordinator for the county’s Head Start and VPI+ programs.

The federal funding comes from an initiative put forth by President Obama to expand preschool offerings, and the funding is coming from the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said Channell.

The Virginia Department of Education will receive $17.5 million each year from the grant funding over the next four years, totaling $70 million. The state has decided to distribute these funds across the state.

“The Virginia Department of Education then funded eleven school divisions around the Commonwealth, to serve VPI+ 4-year old students,” said Channell.

According to Kavits, the VPI+ program will allow the county to help 575 additional preschoolers during the next four years.

In order for children to be eligible for the VPI+ program, they must live below 200% of the income poverty level – $48,5000 a year for a family of four, Channell stated.

“They can be children who are homeless, they can be children that are below that 200% level of income poverty, they might be children with special needs,” said Channell.

Channell stated that the program will provide comprehensive education and services to the children to help them grow and develop before entering the Prince William County Public School system. 

“It’s a high quality preschool program for children who may otherwise not be able to have a pre-K experience prior to going to school…[there are] degreed teachers, and they’re holding Virginia State teaching certificates. So they’re offering a pre-K program to those children, which will not only include education, but has some comprehensive services within it as well – health, nutrition, mental health, family engagement – and that will all be a part of this program,” said Channell.

To check for program eligibility, parents need to call the VPI+ office at 703-791-7200.

*This story has been corrected.


Department of education gives Manassas Park $96,000 for school tablets

Seven hundred 9th and 10th grade students in Manassas Parks schools will now have access to an electronic tablet device for their schoolwork, as part of a partnership between the Virginia Department of Education and the school system.

“The program is being funded in part by the Virginia Department of Education – it’s an e-learning initiative grant that we applied for and received,” said Jennifer Braswell-Geller, Director of Special Programs for the Manassas Park school system.

The funding from the state is a matching grant, with 80% of the cost being covered by the department of education and the remaining 20% being locally matched by the school board.

The Virginia Department of Education awarded the school system $96,000 for the project, and Manassas Park funded just under $20,000 towards the overall cost, according to Braswell-Geller.

Before handing out the devices to the students, the school system went through a an extensive criteria process and a pilot program at the beginning of the school year. They ended up selecting the Dell Venue 11 Pro HD Windows tablet.

“For this entire school year, our instructional technology specialist has been regularly meeting, so we can get their feedback. And ultimately their feedback has helped drive our future decisions, in terms of moving this initiative forward,” said Braswell-Geller.

In terms of criteria, the schools wanted devices that had good battery life, fast processing speeds, quality screen resolution, durability and a lightweight.

The grant program had a cap of $400 per device, but according to Braswell-Geller, the school board helped to fund the additional cost for the Dell tablets.

“Our school board was very supportive in us finding the right device for our students, and a good quality device that would help enhance the learning and instruction in our classrooms. Our position wasn’t ‘find something cheap and get it in the kid’s hands’ – we really took a lot of time to evaluate and plan,” said Braswell-Geller.

The school system has already begun handing out the devices to the students in large deployments. While right now, only the two-grade levels are receiving the devices, there has been talk of expanding the program to eleventh and twelfth graders as well, according to program documents.

Braswell-Geller stated that the teachers and administrators have already seen collaboration between students using the devices, and over time they’ll be able to see more benefits.

“Whseen something like this [program] starts, it takes a little while for everyone to see that end result everyone’s looking for…but what we’ve already seen and what we knew would happen would be a high level of collaboration between students, and students and teachers,” Braswell-Geller said, continuing, “We know that this generation of kids, they’ve grown up with devices – this is how they learn, how they navigate their lives – so it shouldn’t be any different in school…but what we do see is greater ownership and flexibility with students.”

Prince William students running out of snow days

Thursday’s snowfall broke records, and classes in Prince William County Public Schools were canceled yesterday and today.

Now, with spring on the doorstep and summer not far behind, many parents wonder how if their children will need to make up school days missed due to inclement weather.

This statement was sent out by Prince William County Public Schools on Wednesday afternoon:

As of March 5, we will have closed school 8 times and opened late 9 times. Given that PWCS began the school year with time above the state requirements, about 15.6 hours or just over 2.6 days remain available for weather closing/delay time before we fall short of Virginia’s 990 hour minimum requirement for instructional time.

The reason PWCS has additional time this year is because the School Board approved the addition of 10 minutes to the instructional day for the 2014-15 school year and beyond. This added an additional 30 hours to the 2014-15 calendar compared to previous years. If PWCS had maintained the previous instructional day, we would currently be more than two full day’s worth of hours below the state minimum and would already require make-up time.

The calendar has two remaining built-in make-up days: Monday, April 6—the Monday at the end of Spring Break—is designated on the calendar as a make-up day, as is June 19, the day after school ends, should these become necessary.

Bottom line: If  students don’t want to begin making up school days, they better start thinking spring.

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