WE ARE LOCAL News in Prince William, Virginia




Prince William school board states their priorities for 2016


We received clarification on the legislative priorities listed on the Prince William school board website from Associate Superintendent Keith Imon:

The School Board has not yet approved the School Division’s Legislative Priorities for next year. Instead, the Board simply agreed to send the items in your article and on the School Board’s June 3 agenda to the VSBA for their consideration to include them in the VSBA’s legislative agenda. This is the time of the year that the VSBA seeks input from all of Virginia’s local school boards. The PWC School Board will begin the work to finalize the School Division’s Legislative Priorities in September and typically adopts them around October. Of course, the items submitted to the VSBA for its consideration will be part of the School Division’s recommendation to the School Board as part of that process, but in all likelihood there will be other recommendations as well.

The PWCS webpage has a link to our Legislative information and the adopted list of the 2015 priorities are there. Once the Board adopts next year’s we will post the 2016 list to that same location.

Original post

The Prince William school board has set their legislative priorities for the next year.

The Virginia School Board Association (VSBA) presented their own legislative priorities for 2016 to the Prince William school board at their last meeting, asking for their input.

According to the Prince William school board’s site, school staff from the Superintendent’s office outlined their priorities. Potomac Local has reached out to obtain their drafted copy.

Here’s the list of what the VSBA thinks is important this year:

That the state eliminate the local school division budgetary match currently required to receive Virginia Preschool Initiative (VIP) funding to allow school divisions to expand preschool opportunities without negatively impacting funding for other programs and services.

That the state define comparable verified units for students transferring to Virginia school divisions from other states for graduation purposes.

That the state provide school divisions with flexibility on the requirement for 140 seat-hours to allow for greater opportunities for virtual and dual enrollment courses.

That the state provide local school boards with the option of allowing at-home, digital e-learning (or offline assignments when home technology and/or connections to the Internet is not available) to count for required days/minutes of instruction when students are home doe to unexpected school closures (e.g., inclement weather, natural disaster, facility problems).

That the state allow school divisions to use the WIDA (World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment) ACCESS (Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English State-to-State for English Language Learners) score of 5.0-6.0 on the Tier C test for English Language Learner (ELL) students as an alternative for fulfilling Virginia’s requirement for a verified credit in the English Reading End of Course (EOC) Standards of Learning (SOL) test by substituting the WIDA ACCESS for ELLs assessment.

Stafford Superintendent’s contract extended to 2019


Looks like Dr. Bruce Benson will continue to be the Stafford superintendent through 2019.

The Stafford school board voted to extend his contact at their meeting on Wednesday night.

Benson began working in the Stafford County School system as superintendent last year, after Dr. Randy Bridges left to spend more time with his family.

There will not be a salary increase, according to a school release.

“I appreciate the Board’s confidence in my ability to continue guiding Stafford County Public Schools.  I have enjoyed my first year in Stafford County and welcome the excitement and challenges the next four years will bring.  There are few places in Virginia that rival the advantages of Stafford County and I am honored to call Stafford County my home. I look forward to ensuring improved community engagement and transparency for the school division over the next four years,” stated Benson in a release.

Osbourn High School Grammy Signature Enterprise Award,$5,500

In March, OHS was recognized as one of 13 schools across the country to be named a 2015 GRAMMY Signature School. The recognition cites U.S. public high schools that have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to music education during an academic school year and beyond.

On May 13, The Osbourn High School (OHS) Performing Arts Department was presented with the GRAMMY Foundation Signature Enterprise Award and a check for $5,500 presented by Tom Goldfogle, president of the DC Chapter of the Recording Academy for their profound efforts in music education.

The contribution will allow students greater access to music studies by incorporating the latest in music technology into the program at Manassas City Public Schools (MCPS). OHS teachers Austin Isaac (Orchestra), Dustin Faltz (Chorus), Bill Stevens (Band) and Stacey Rubach (Guitar Ensemble) were instrumental in achieving the recognition.

There’s a new principal in Manassas

The City of Manassas school board has appointed Kimberly Buckeit as the new principal of Metz Middle School in Manassas.

Buckheit is currently principal at a middle school in Maine – where she has worked since 2004, said a release.

More on Buckheit’s background from Manassas City Public Schools:

Prior to her current position, she served as an elementary school principal for five years. Additionally, she has experience as director of the Gifted and Talented program and an Affirmative Action Officer for the school district. Buckheit also has eight years’ experience as a behavior specialist in Baltimore, MD, and a behavior resource teacher for two years for Baltimore County Public Schools. She also has experience as an adjunct graduate professor at Goucher and New England colleges.

“I am excited to have Mrs. Buckheit join the Manassas City Public Schools family as the new principal at Metz. Her solid leadership background and focus on school improvement and student success will be an asset to our school community,” said Superintendent Catherine Magouyrk in a release.

Buckheit will begin working in her new role in July.

Manassas high school given award, $5.5K by Grammy Foundation

Osbourn High School’s performing arts department was given the Grammy Foundation Signature Enterprise Award for their work with students on music education.

During a ceremony, members of the department received the award, along with a $5,500 check to help fund future music programs, said a Manassas City Public Schools release.

“The contribution will allow students greater access to music studies by incorporating the latest in music technology into the program at Manassas City Public Schools (MCPS),” said a release.

Osbourn was one of the 13 schools across the United States to be given distinction as a 2015 Grammy Signature School back in March, said a release.

Family tragedy, school project lead to suicide awareness walk

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What started as a family tragedy and a school project has become a large community focus on the impact of suicide in young adults – and residents coming together for a suicide awareness walk on May 23.

The 6-mile walk – which begins at 9 a.m. that morning – has been organized by students at Forest Park High School.

Hannah Kolkmeyer, the leader of the project, had the idea after a relative committed suicide.

“It all started with a death in my family…back in March my cousin committed suicide, and my family was obviously heartbroken over the situation. So, I came up with the idea to have a walk to raise awareness,” said Kolkmeyer.

According to Kolkmeyer, suicide is the third leading cause of death for individuals from 18 to 24.

“It started off as a project, but now it’s turned into such a huge thing,” said Kolkmeyer.

Shannon Geraghty, a civics teacher at Forest Park High School, said that the project is a way for her students to put their knowledge to work – instead of simply taking a test.

“This project takes the place of a final exam. It is called an alternative assessment. I never have them take an exam; instead they have to put all their civic knowledge to work by making an impact in their community,” said Geraghty.

In order to get residents out to the walk this Saturday, Kolkmeyer and her classmates have been out in the community and speaking to elected officials to gain their support.

“We’ve gone to school board meetings – we’re going to the [Prince William] Board of County Supervisors meeting next week…we’re trying to get as many people as we can to come to this,” said Kolkmeyer.

At the end of the walk, participants will hear from speakers about the dangers of suicide at a post-race rally.

Moncure PTO president announces run for Stafford school board

Emily Fallon

Emily Fallon

The president of the Anne E. Moncure Elementary School Parent-Teacher Organization, Emily Fallon, has announced that she is running for the Stafford County School Board in the Griffis-Widewater district. Dana Reinboldt currently holds that position.

“The status quo is not good enough for our kids,” said Fallon in a press release. “Our kids and the taxpayers of Stafford County deserve schools that have a plan for excellence and milestones to measure our progress.” 

Fallon has been president of the Moncure PTO for three terms and has served as a substitute teacher in the county. She’s also worked as a paraprofessional in the D.C. Public Schools, according to her campaign. Additionally, Fallon has served as a member of the Stafford County Public Schools Special Education Citizens Advisory Committee, the SCPS Elementary School Redistricting Committee and was a founding member of the Stafford Special Education Parent Teachers Association known as SEPTA. 

“We need a real strategic plan for our schools, developed with the help of parents

and teachers, where we lay out a vision for Commonwealth-leading schools by bringing new technology to the classroom, increasing access for all SCPS students to our current programs,” stated Fallon in the release.

Some of Fallon’s main goals are: 

– The development of a five-year plan that sets the educational goals for the school division and aligns those goals with future funding expectations and metrics of success. 

– The expansion of student access to existing programs, regardless of their base school.

– A partnership with employers in the area to develop new programs and internship opportunities. 

– Making greater use of technology in the classroom. 

– A comprehensive review of SCPS Special Education programs to ensure the school system is meeting the needs of those with special needs.

“Special education is an area that is near and dear to my heart and is one of many areas that I think SCPS can and should be doing better in,” said Fallon. 

Fallon is a graduate of Strayer University and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in anthropology. She reports that she’s a strong believer in lifelong learning.

Fallon resides in Aquia Harbour and has three children who are all currently attending Stafford County Public Schools. Her husband, Ben Fallon, works in Congressional Affairs for the Department of Defense.

Two new principals appointed in Stafford

The Stafford County School Board has appointed new administrators for two schools in Stafford – Terri Rivero and Brian Fitzgerald.

According to a release, Rivero – a graduate of Stafford County Public Schools – will serve as the new principal at Rockhill Elementary School.

Prior to her appointment, she worked as an assistant principal at Rodney Thompson Middle School, as well as Falmouth Elementary School. Rivero began as a teacher at H.H. Poole Middle School and Dixon-Smith Middle School.

Brian Fitzgerald was also appointed by the school board, as the new principal at Margaret Bren Elementary School, said a release.

Fitzgerald worked previously as the assistant principal at Kate Waller Barrett Elementary School. He started off his career as a teacher in Prince William County before coming to Mountain View High School in Stafford.

Three area students win McDonald’s scholarships

From left: Local McDonald’s owner Craig Welburn, Precious Mathis, Craig’s wife Diane Welburn, and North Stafford High School Principal Thomas Nichols. [Submitted]

From left: Local McDonald’s owner Craig Welburn, Precious Mathis, Craig’s wife Diane Welburn, and North Stafford High School Principal Thomas Nichols.

McDonald’s Restaurants of Greater Washington, D.C., have awarded 43 scholarships to students in the D.C. area, with three of them going to students in Prince William and Stafford counties. 

According to a release, more than 500 applications were received and reviewed by a panel of judges that included Greater Washington, D.C., McDonald’s owners and operators. Requirements for applicants included a completed application, a letter of recommendation from a teacher, guidance counselor or community service leader, plus two short essays. 

Scholarships in amounts of $1,500, $5,000 or $50,000 were awarded. The scholarship money will go directly to the college or university the student will be attending.

The local 2015 McDonald’s Educates Scholarship recipients are Rachel Dooley of C.D. Hylton Senior High School, Ammara Khursheed of Forest Park High School and Precious Mathis of North Stafford High School. Dooley and Khursheed each won a scholarship worth $1,500. Mathis won a $50,000 scholarship.

The scholarship winners were recognized at reception at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on May 5.

“As part of McDonald’s commitment to education and the community, the McDonald’s Family Restaurants of Greater Washington, D.C., believes it is important to recognize young people who try to make a positive contribution to their community,” said Cindy Levine, who is a franchisee and McDonald’s Educates Scholarship Committee member. “We are proud to honor those students through the annual scholarship program and celebrate their achievements.”

Prince William school board needs to find $1M for class size reduction

Following the adoption of the county budget by the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, the Prince William school board will meet to revise and adopt their own budget.

The Prince William County School Board has an operating budget of around $1.3 billion.

According to school board Chairman Milt Johns, the budget will be revised and adopted at the May 6 and May 20 meetings.

Their initial budget draft was passed unanimously 8 to 0.

The school funds their budget each year using the 57.1% revenue sharing agreement in place with the county, along with any additional grant funding.

“[Our] budget included a step increase for all employees – which on average is a 2.85% increase. It also included another round of class size reductions,” Johns said.

Johns stated that because the board of supervisors passed the same rate that was advertised back in March., there will be very few changes needed in the school board’s budget draft.

One change that the school board will need to account for is the class size reduction program, introduced by Supervisors Candland and Lawson.

The program was tweaked during board of supervisors budget hearings to incorporate a $1 million matching component from the school board, which will now have to be accounted for in their revised budget, said Johns.

“We are setting up the $1 million dollar matching grant…as long as the supervisors [are] willing to [match funds] and realize that you have to continue to fund class size reduction – I think that’s a step in the right direction,” Johns said.


Prince William schools save $11M, earn honors from EPA

During a ceremony last week at the Edward L. Kelly Leadership Center, Prince William County Public Schools was honored for their energy savings program.

Brian Gorham, Energy Management Administrative Coordinator for Prince William schools stated that since the program began in all county schools, he’s seen a huge savings – $11 million to be exact.

“In 2011, we actually spent over $23 million dollars on utility expenses as a school division…since instituting the energy management program…I’m proud to report that through the efforts of [school employees] we’ve been able to reduce our utility expenses down to $19.5 million dollars on an annual basis,” said Gorham.

Additionally, Gorham also stated that the schools have reduced their CO2 emissions footprint by 46,000 tons.

For Superintendent Steven Walts, the savings the county has seen since implementing the plan, which includes upgrading HVAC systems, weather stripping, and converting some fixtures to solar or battery power, has been a huge help during tough economic times for the school district.

“[I’ve been] trying to navigate through one very difficult budget year after another, and one of the things that has been instrumental in getting through the last couple of budgets…we’ve got another $2 million in energy savings…these savings have made a humongous monetary impact without major disruption to people’s comfort and convenience,” Walts said.

Jean Lupinacci, director of an Energy Star program for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was in attendance at the ceremony to award district schools for their conservation efforts.

The following schools were honored:

Alvey, Antietam, Bennett, Buckland Mills, Cedar Point, Coles, Dale City, Enterprise, Featherstone, Fitzgerald, Gar-Field, Graham Park, Henderson, Kerrydale, Kilby, Leesylvania, Lynn, Marumsco Hills, McAuliffe, Montclair, New Dominion, Old Bridge, Pattie and Washington-Reid, Pennington, Rockledge, Rosa Parks, Springwoods, Swans Creek, Westridge, Woodbridge HS, Woodbridge MS.

Closing Governor’s School would be a mistake, say parents, teachers


It wasn’t on the agenda, but the issue of whether or not to close a location of the Commonwealth Governor’s School in Stafford was the central topic during the citizen comments period of the county school board meeting April 14.

Stafford County Public Schools hired a firm to conduct an efficiency study of district operations in November 2014. That report, which the Stafford County School Board recently received, recommends the closing of one of the three sites for the Commonwealth Governor’s School within the county. There are a total of six Commonwealth Governor’s School sites in the region, but the study focused only on Stafford’s sites, which are at Colonial Forge High School, North Stafford High School and Stafford High School.

The speakers at the school board meeting contend that the report is flawed and contains multiple inaccuracies. 

The efficiency study was done by Evergreen Solutions LLC, of Tallahassee, Florida. Stafford County budgeted approximately $100,000 to conduct the study. 

“Stafford County Public Schools understands that, in order to succeed in this mission, in the face of continuing economic constraints impacting operations and management, the school division will have to be even more effective and efficient than ever before,” stated the report on why the study was conducted.

The report also stated that approximately 27,000 students are currently enrolled in the county’s public schools, which consists of 30 schools and has approximately 3,750 members on staff. It also listed operating expenditures of over $272.9 million.

The report claims that eliminating one CGS site will save more than $680,000 a year. (more…)

“Movie Night” on the Manassas Museum lawn May 15

On May 15, the Baldwin Elementary School PTO will be hosting their annual Family Movie Night on the Manassas Museum lawn.

The movie – Paddington Bear – will begin at 8:15 p.m. 

Entry to the movie is free for all participants.

Prior to the movie, residents can take part in lawn games at 6:30 p.m. with the OHS Community Action Athletes, OHS Honors History Club, OHS, Mayfield & Metz Robotics teams, Premier Martial Arts and the NOVA Music Center Conga drum line.

Pizza, hot dogs, popcorn, candy, chips and other food items will be available to purchase with cash. All food and drink sales will benefit the Baldwin Elementary PTO.

If there is rain, the event will be rescheduled for May 29.  

Prince William school earns Green Ribbon award

A Prince William County elementary school was honored this week, along with three other Virginia schools, as national 2015 Green Ribbon School award winners. The U.S. Department of Education program recognizes energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly schools that promote environmental awareness, community engagement and student wellness. 
Coles Elementary School partnered with the private sector and non-profit organizations to create nine school gardens watered with recycled water. The school nutrition program includes “no paper days” and dining by natural light on “lights off Fridays.”
The other winning schools are: 
  • Bassett High School, Henry County 
  • Crozet Elementary School, Albemarle County 
  • The Steward School, a suburban Richmond private school 
“The earth-friendly practices and hands-on environmental learning experiences woven into the instructional programs of these schools provide opportunities for students to make a difference as young people today and in the future as thoughtful and engaged citizens,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven R. Staples said.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Managing Director of the White House Council of Environmental Quality Christy Goldfuss announced the winners as part of Earth Day celebrations. Nationally 58 schools, 14 school districts and nine postsecondary institutions — including the University of Virginia — were honored and will receive green display banners and be invited to send a delegation to a June recognition ceremony in Washington, D.C.
The Green Ribbon School program was created in 2011. 

No traditional school to be built on ‘Ferlazzo’ site in Woodbridge

The Mary G. Porter Traditional School will not be moving to the “Ferlazzo Site”, according to a letter sent out by the Prince William Superintendent of Schools Steven Walts on April 20.

The conversation about building a new school for Porter Traditional School to relocate to– on the corner of Spriggs and Minnieville Roads – began as a means to address overcrowding in the classrooms, a large amount of classroom trailers used at schools, and to expand enrollment, said Walts’ letter. 

While Walts had originally made his recommendation to move forward with the move of the traditional school, in his letter, he stated that he had reversed his recommendation. 

Originally, there were plans for the “Ferlazzo Site” to be used for a neighborhood school – not a traditional school program, said Marty Nohe. When the new plan for the traditional school was proposed, it caused massive outcry in the community from upset residents and parents.

Now that Walts has reversed his decision, the school board in Prince William can continue with their original plan.

Walts stated that he appreciated the dialog from the community about the plans for the traditional and community-based school options.

“Our PWCS administration discovered that our efforts to do the right thing must be enhanced by greater communication. We are excited to see how many of our residents – regardless of their position on this issue – can be motivated to get involved in securing what is best for their children,” said Walts.

Prince William County School Board member Michael Otaigbe, stated that he did want the traditional school to expand to the “Ferlazzo Site”, but he understood the choice wasn’t his to make alone.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s a win-win outcome. The community around the Ferlazzo site – they wanted a community school, and these folks at the [Porter] Traditional School wanted a bigger building…but it didn’t work out…I represent the community – and I was torn between the traditional school that I love…however the people in the community do not see it how I see it, so I have to vote according to their needs and what they’re telling me that they want,” said Otaigbe.

There has been no further comment on if and where the Porter Traditional School could expand to increase their enrollment.

Stafford student awarded $50,000 scholarship

A North Stafford High School senior was selected out of hundreds of applicants for one of three $50,000 “Greens for Grads” scholarships. 

The scholarship is a part of the McDonald’s Family Restaurants of Greater Washington, D.C., Educates Scholarship Program. The scholarship program is for high school seniors who are planning to enroll as full-time undergraduate students at a college or university.

 This year, the McDonald’s Educates Scholarship Program offered two levels of scholarship awards. The General Level scholarship encompasses 60 scholarships in the amounts of $5,000 or $1,500 each. The Greens for Grads Level scholarship includes three scholarships in the amount of $50,000 each.

Precious Mathis won one of the $50,000 scholarships. 

She was told at the school in a surprise announcement on Monday, April 20. 

Manassas City schools open kindergarten registration April 28 – 29

Manassas City Public Schools (MCPS) will be taking registrations for incoming kindergartners for the 2015-2016 school year starting April 28.

The registration period will run from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 28, and continue April 29 from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. according to a MCPS school release.

Parents can register their child at any of the elementary school locations in Manassas City during the registration period, and should select the school that they plan to have their child to attend.

MCPS stated that students must turn five before the last day of September 2015 in order to be eligible for the upcoming year’s kindergarten class.

In order to find a child’s school, which is based on location, parents can look on the MCPS website.  

Additionally, parents can register their child for the New Experiences in School Transitions (N.E.S.T) program.

An MCPS release stated that the N.E.S.T program aids children and their families in transitioning from home to school.

The program takes place three weeks before the beginning of the school year, and allows students to practice school skills and interacting with teachers and peers.

George prioritizes teacher pay in his run for Prince William school board

Joseph George, an Army veteran and Department of Defense employee, has announced his candidacy to run for the Neabsco District school board seat.

Lisa Bell currently holds the board seat.

Bell has not confirmed if she will be seeking re-election, but Diane Raulston has also announced her candidacy for the seat.

George worked as an intelligence analyst for the United States Army for ten years and holds a degree from Rutgers University. He currently works as a supervisory criminal investigative analyst for the United States Department of Defense.

In the community, George has been president and vice president of the PTO/PTA, as well as serving as chairperson for the Minnieville Elementary School’s Principal Advisory Council.

According to George, the community urged him to run for school board.

“I have been an active member of my local schools and after discussions with various parents, teachers, and facility, I have been encouraged to run for the School Board position. I was initially approached to run in 2011, but was not ready to make that commitment at the time. Now I am,” George said.

During his campaign, George wants to address reducing class sizes, teacher pay and business involvement with schools.

“[I want to] prevent our best and brightest teachers from leaving PWCS for higher paying positions at the surrounding Counties, either through training opportunities or other incentives,” said George.

George lives with his wife and three daughters in Woodbridge, who all go to Prince William County Public Schools.

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.

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