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News
Vikings will Host Percussion, Guard Competition

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Woodbridge High School will host the Woodbridge Viking Invitational Indoor Percussion and Winter Guard competition on Saturday. The competition, which opens to the public at 8 a.m., will be held at the high school, located at 3001 Old Bridge Road in Woodbridge. More than 60 groups from high schools and colleges have registered to compete.

Tickets are $10 (cash only) payable at the door. Concessions will also be available for sale. Winter guard and indoor percussion are the fastest growing of the marching arts, and high school marching bands benefit from the skills developed in these winter programs. These include elements of music, choreography, and theater in color guard and percussion units.

Saturday’s competition is sponsored by the Atlantic Indoor Association (AIA), which was formed in 1994 to support and benefit organizations which engage in, or support, youth activities in the performing arts. AIA currently offers contests throughout Virginia and North Carolina. With more than 300 member units, AIA is one of the largest circuits in the nation.

For more information, contact Nancy Ro, Woodbridge Band Boosters president, at boosterprez@woodbridgeband.org

-Press release 

News
Moncure Elementary will Get a New Home

By Uriah Kiser

NORTH STAFFORD, Va. — A 40-year-old school building along the busiest road in North Stafford is reaching its end.

Anne E. Moncure Elementary School sits at 75 Moncure Lane off Va. 610, and the building is aging. To replace it, Stafford County officials will spend $1.7 million for 22.3 acres of property on nearby Juggins Road in North Stafford, behind the Doc Stone and Stafford Marketplace shopping centers. There, the School Board will build a new Moncure Elementary School.

The current school building sits alongside busy Va. 610, and the site of the building is better suited for mixed-use commercial development, county documents state.

“The building is more than 40-years-old and its in need of renovation or a rebuild, so the notion is let’s build a new school on property that off of the Garrisonville Road corridor, and lets take the property that’s right in the middle of economic development purposes,” said Stafford County Administrator Anthony Romanello.

As part of the deal between the Stafford County Government and the county’s independent School Board, the county will lease the new land to the School Board for no monetary consideration. Once a new elementary school is built, the School Board intends to declare the old school “surplus” and will give the property at 75 Moncure Lane to the county, again for no monetary consideration, according to Stafford County documents.

Romanello said it’s too soon to tell how much money the county will gain from the sell of the land to a future developer. In addition to shopping centers, the current Moncure Elementary School sits near a popular commuter lot that is being expanded.

About 680 students are enrolled at Moncure Elementary School.

News
Pr. William Teachers ‘Grade-in’ at Mall

By Uriah Kiser

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Prince William County teachers brought papers to grade to Potomac Mills mall this weekend.

About 60 county public school teachers staged a “grade-in” at the mall’s busy food court on Saturday. The event was used to showcase how much work teachers must do outside the traditional school day.

Some sat with laptops and while others sat and ate lunch and chatted with friends and coworkers. It was one of two grade-ins held in the county Saturday. The other sit-in was held at a Wegmans grocery store in Gainesville.

Participants here wore blue t-shirts displaying PWEA, for the Prince William Education Association.

The sit-in comes as school officials are looking for ways to provide Prince William teachers a pay raise in the next budget year, something they didn’t get last year. The pay raise issue has been a sticking point with educators who banded together two weeks ago along busy Prince William Parkway to protest the lack of a pay raise in the upcoming budget that’s still awaiting approval.

“I don’t think the [Prince William County Board of Supervisors] has adequately funded schools in this county. We’re the ninth wealthiest county in the nation yet we have the largest class sizes in the state, and I don’t think the parents in this community want that,” said PWEA President Bonnie Klakowicz.

Class size in Prince William County averages about 27 students per class, according to the school division’s profile. Average class sizes in Fairfax County are about 22 students per class, according to 2010 data. Stafford County schools does not include their average class size its division profile posted to the it’s website.

So, how much of a raise to teachers want? Klakowicz says at least a three percent merit increase. The last time Prince William teachers got one was in 2008, she added.

During the 2009-2010 school year, Prince William teachers got a 2.4 percent market raise, said Klakowicz.

Teachers plan to sit in again, this time at the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday in Woodbridge to draw even more attention to their cause.

News
Woodbridge Students Help Celebrate Foreign Language Week

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — Small Town USA this isn’t. Our town today is the world, made smaller through the Internet. Today’s global melting pot is in our schools, where the universal language is an encouraging smile; language barriers are overcome with laughter; and eyes open wide with wonder.

Such expressive means to communicate are often the first resort for newcomers who represent over 105 languages and 160 cultures that are thriving in the homes of Prince William County Public School (PWCS) students.

During National Foreign Language Week, March 6-11, we salute those who teach and learn world languages that reflect the rich diversity of our community. The School Division’s 185 world language teachers put the week’s theme, “You’re Connected…Now Communicate” into practice every day. Instruction in French and Spanish begins at the elementary school level in six schools and continues in middle schools and high schools. Other languages studied in high school are American Sign Language, German, Italian, Chinese, Arabic, Russian, and the classical language, Latin.

A variety of presentations, events and collaborative activities have been planned during March to celebrate Prince William County’s cultural and language diversity.

“We believe school activities that offer a deeper understanding about the countries and peoples of the languages our students are learning will encourage them to more fully engage in these cultures and hopefully inspire a lifelong interest,” says Carol Bass, PWCS supervisor of World Languages.

About 50 Battlefield High School French students coordinated a community service project for children in the school’s Head Start preschool program. The students assembled and decorated “card stock shoes,” stuffed them full of hats, mittens, pencils, crayons, and children’s books, and presented them to the youngsters. “We received thanks by way of pictures and thank you notes….I think that both big and little kids alike loved the activity,” said French teacher Marilyn Clemence.

At Lake Ridge Middle School, students celebrated Mardi Gras in true New Orleans tradition by making masks and “shoebox” parade floats, with the help of Assistant Principal Krsunthia Childs. “Students of French learned about New Orleans culture as part of the Francophone world,” says French teacher Kim Maynard. “Every grade level had a different activity. Eighth-graders learned about jazz bands and the Krewes (crews that put on a parade) and elected a King and Queen of Mardi Gras.”

Woodbridge High School German students recently attended the two-day annual conference of the Virginia Organization of German Students, where they learned in a workshop how to cook potato latkes (pancakes), a traditional dish of Germany and the Baltic states, and enjoyed all kinds of German customs, traditions, and academic competitions. They placed second in the Battle of the Brains contest, a quiz in English and German that tests their knowledge of German culture, language, and history. “All are looking forward to attending the convention next year, as they had a wonderful, enriching experience,” said German teacher Carol Butler.

Cross-cultural communication skills are invaluable in preparing students for the global world in which they live and will one day work. Students who study a second language learn that second-language acquisition is a lengthy process; for many, this builds tolerance of recently arrived immigrants who are also learning a new language.

The United States, a nation of immigrants, has historically benefited from the contributions of people born in other countries who have excelled in careers that affect the quality of life–medicine, science, technology, the arts, education, sports, and government. Possessing the ability to communicate in another language and understanding other cultures can help to ensure our nation’s future economic, business, and political success on the world stage.

-Press release 

News
Chamber Scholarship Deadline Extended

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — The Prince William Chamber has extended the deadline for its 2011-2012 Scholarship Program. Application packages are now due to the Chamber no later than Monday, March 19.

Through this program three scholarships of up to $2,500 each will be given to high school seniors who have shown a commitment to academic excellence and community involvement. Additionally, to be eligible, students must be an employee of a Chamber member company or the dependent of an employee.

“We have long supported academic success and giving back to the community through our scholarship program. Now, we are also able to reward the members of our local business community for all that they do to enhance the economy and quality of life in the Prince William region,” said Prince William Chamber President and CEO Rob Clapper.

The Prince William Chamber is the largest chamber in the Metro Washington, DC area, representing nearly 2,100 organizations and their more than 90,000 employees. Clapper noted that every employee of a member company is in fact a member of the Chamber, and can take part in programming and services.

“We look forward to learning more about the extraordinary young people living and working right here in Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park and helping them to achieve educational success,” said Clapper.

Information on the scholarship, including the full criteria and application packet can be found at pwchamber.org by clicking the “Scholarship Info” button. The Chamber will also host its annual Frostbite Scramble golf event and luncheon on March 21 to raise funds for the program.

Members of the public are invited to participate. Registration information can be found online under “events” or by calling 703-368-6600.

-Press release

News
Teachers Protest Pay Freeze

Woodbridge, Va. — Prince William County school teachers banded together to protest the lack of pay raises over the next three years.

In cold and rainy weather, about 200 participants at the “Rally for a World Class Education” lined sidewalks at the heavily traveled intersection of Prince William Parkway and Minnieville Road holding signs stating “no teacher left behind” and “support Prince William teachers.”

The rally comes after Prince William Public Schools Superintendent Steven L. Walt’s proposed 2013 $932.3 million budget would freeze teacher pay raises. After years of stagnant pay raises, about two percent a year according to a report in The Washington Post, a once enthusiastic English teacher, Bryan Haney, has turned to the web to research teaching jobs outside in other jurisdictions.

“When the county basically suggested this year they were going to freeze pay for another three years that would mean I would be making my second-year salary going into my sixth, seventh, eighth year, possibly,” said Bryan Haney, who teaches at C.D. Hylton High School in Woodbridge. “I’m also getting married this summer to another teacher who’s pretty early in the pay scale, too. When you start to think about raising a family…when you start planning long term, you expect certain things.”

While teachers are contracted to work seven hours a day, many stay after school, take work home and grade papers on weekends. When Prince William teachers began a “work to the rule” protest last week, Walt reminded them through a letter their contract requires them to be involved, even lead extra circular activities.

The teachers rallied Friday were prideful in Prince William schools, and many said this show of solidarity expresses those feelings.

Some passing drivers blew horns in support of the teachers’ plight and asked how they could help their cause. Another driver heckled the teachers and said he was against union workers – though Virginia’s right to work laws prohibit teachers from forming a union.

“I think I know someone who was a teacher in Virginia and was in a union,” he yelled from his car window.

“This is Virginia and we’re not allowed to form a union,” teachers responded.

News
Residents Invited to School Food Show

Prince William County, Va. — The people charged with feeding schoolchildren in Prince William County are looking for a few good tasters.

The county’s public school system will hold its’ 22nd annual Food Show at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. March 13 and March 15 at Patriot High School in Nokesville.

It’s free to attend the show and taste a wide variety food items that could one day make it on the menus at area schools. Feedback gathered from the tasters will be used when the school system decides what foods to purchase for the 2012-13 school year, said School Food & Nutritional Services Director School Food & Nutritional Services Serena E. Suthers.

Those who want to come to the show should call 703-791-7314 to make reservations.

According to the proposed 2013 fiscal year school budget, $37.9 million has been allotted for school food services. Most of the funds come from food sales and through federal and state subsidies.

The school system’s food services division employs nearly 600 people.

News
Teachers Plan Protest on Highway

Prince William County, Va. — Teachers are expected to take to the streets Friday afternoon in protest.

Educators said they will gather at Va. 234 Prince William Parkway and Minnieville Road near the Prince William County Public Schools administration complex to once again let school leaders know they’re not happy about the prospect of not receiving a raise.

The rally, sponsored by Concerned Teachers of Prince William County, will gather between 3 and 6 p.m. with hopes to draw commuters’ attention to their plight.

“The teachers of Prince William County are coming together to Rally for Education. We want to draw attention to the current budget situation – and the overall lack of support financially for education and educators in Prince William County,” stated an email notifying media of the event.

The group stated they’re not involved with any political organization.

Prince William schools Superintendent Steven L. Walts’ $932 million proposed budget does not account for any new teacher pay raises for the next three years but will keep staffing levels the same.

Outraged, some Prince William teachers protested inside the Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chambers, and some began “working to the rule” – only working the mandated seven hours per day that’s mandated by their contracts.

In response to the “work to the rule” protests, Walts sent a letter to teachers reminding them strikes are not allowed in Virginia, and that teachers, per their contract, must participate in afterschool activities.

*This story has been corrected. Original information provided to PotomacLocal.com noted the planned rally’s location on Va. 234 near The Prince William County Public Schools Administration Complex.

News
Colonial Forge High School receives $5,000 Grant

Submitted By Valerie Cottongim
Stafford County Public Schools

Stafford, Va. — Colonial Forge High School received a $5,000 Lowe’s Toolbox for Education grant for their proposal titled From the Garden to the Kitchen. The grant application was submitted based on the goal of improving the learning community at Colonial Forge.

The grant application was submitted based on the goal of improving the learning community at Colonial Forge. As part of the grant, students in the nutrition and wellness classes will plant and maintain a garden.

This project is being done in collaboration with students with disabilities who already maintain a horticulture greenhouse at Colonial Forge. The plants used in the garden will come from seedlings grown in this greenhouse.

In late summer and early fall, the crops will be harvested and preserved. Excess crops will be donated to local food banks and pantries. Project coordinator, Kathleen Mellenberg, solicited advice from Colonial Forge teachers for any suggestions for the garden.

Walter Thommaser’s technical drawing class completed the engineering drawings for the proposed garden. Several language teachers gave input on fruits and vegetables common to early American literature. The science department helped with the types of plants citing that our area would be most suitable for a Mediterranean herb garden.

The program is titled “From the Garden to the Kitchen.” The concept is to use the bedding plants produced in our greenhouse managed by the horticulture class. The nutrition classes and special education classes will plant and maintain the garden during the spring.

Volunteers will continue tending the plants throughout the summer. In the fall, crops will be harvested and the nutrition students will learn to preserve fruits and vegetables and make jams and jellies to enjoy all year round.

During the current school year, using organic fruits and vegetables, students made jams and pumpkin butter. The nutrition class promotes using organic and healthy ingredients in recipes to promote healthier eating habits. Students are learning that foods taste better with locally grown ingredients and will enjoy cooking from the Forge’s own harvest.

“This is a tremendous honor for our school to be selected for this award and truly speaks to the dedication that Mrs. Mellenberg has shown to Colonial Forge High School,” said Mike Byers, principal of Colonial Forge High School. “Our school and community will greatly benefit from this grant. We wish to thank our friends at Lowe’s for generously supporting this important project and also thank Mrs. Mellenberg for outstanding work and dedication associated with this project as well.”

All K-12 public schools in the United States are eligible for the Toolbox for Education program. More information is available at toolboxforeducation.com.

News
Students Return to Class After Evacuation

Dale City, Va. — A strong odor prompted the evacuation of a elementary school today.

McAuliffe Elementary School at 13540 Princedale Drive in Dale City was evacuated at 12:10 p.m. Wednesday after a strong odor was detected. Fire and rescue officials were called into investigate but apparently found nothing, as all students were returned to class within the hour, stated a Prince William County Public Schools spokeswoman.

No one was injured.

This evacuation comes after nine students at North Stafford High School on Friday were taken to a local hospital after a chemistry experiment went wrong.

A strange, gas-like odor permeated the building just after 11 a.m. Friday causing some students to become nauseated. All of the students taken to a hospital suffered conditions that did not appear to be life threatening.

News
Rockhill Elementary Holds Fun Run

Dynamite Danielle from Boosterthon Fun Run, Pat Johnston, Rockhill Elementary’s Principal, Maya Vallejo, Alexus Welch, Molly Carter, Sarah Lewis and Jillian Baxter participate in Rockhill Elementary's Boosterthon Fun Run Fundraiser.

North Stafford, Va. — Rockhill Elementary School’s Fun Run wraps fitness, leadership, and character together in an unforgettable experience. Students learn that fitness is fun as they prepare for the day of the Boosterthon Fun Run. Character lessons presented by Boosterthon Fun Run team members creatively illustrate integrity, honesty, and caring. Students also learn about what it means to be a leader during the experience. Prior to the Fun Run students collect pledges for laps in Fun Run.

-Submitted

Jodee Sablan, Morgan McAllister, Angelina Nguyen, Mariah Childs, Rockhill Elementary principal Pat Johnston.

News
School Open After Virus Outbreak

(Photo: Prince William County Public Schools)

Woodbridge, Va. — Most students at Henderson Elementary School are back in class today after an outbreak of Norovirus last week.

Prince William County Public Schools spokeswoman Irene Cromer said only 11 students did not come to school Monday and remain out of class with Norovirus symptoms.

The virus causes stomach flu in those who contract it. It became apparent by Friday that several students at the school were show signs of the illness.

The school placed calls home to parents informing them of the virus outbreak, as well as sent emails to parents and sent letters home with students.

“The best way to prevent the spread of this illness is through proper hand washing. If your child is ill, please keep them home until they are symptom free for twenty four hours. If this lasts more than 24 hours, please contact your doctor,” school officials told parents.

The school also distributed a fact sheet from the Virginia Department of Health on how to prevent the spread of the virus.

News
5 to be Interviewed for Garrisonville School Board Seat

The seal of Stafford County Public Schools.

Stafford, Va. — Stafford County’s School Board is moving forward with selecting a new Board member to fill an open seat in its Garrisonville District. 

The Stafford County School Board will interview five candidates for the vacant Garrisonville District seat at special called meeting on Wednesday, February 8, 2012, beginning at 5 p.m. The five candidates from the Garrisonville district are Tonya Harris, Nanette Kidby, Alvin Martin, Sylvester Mitchell and Laura Sellers.

Following the interviews, the board will convene in closed session to discuss the candidates. A vote on the candidates may take place following the closed session or on Tuesday, February 14, 2012, during the regularly scheduled school board meeting.

For information regarding the School Board, contact Clerk of the Board, Cathy Torkos at 658-6000 ext. 230.

-Press release 

Former elected Garrisonville School Board Representative Ty Schieber was appointed as the interim Garrisonville Representative on the Stafford County Board of Supervisors, which is charged with overseeing operations of the entire county.


News
Middle School Evacuated for Gas Leak

Update: Fred Lynn Middle School students and staff are safe and have re-entered the school after being evacuated for a gas leak. The Fire Department and gas company have given the all-clear. Students will be given lunch. Dismissal will be at the regular time.

-Prince William County Public Schools

Woodbridge, Va. — A gas leak has prompted the evacuation of Fred M. Lynn Middle School in Woodbridge this afternoon.

Students have been moved to a nearby church and are safe, Prince William County Public Schools spokeswoman Irene Cromer said.

A gas crew is on the way to the school to look at the damage. Students will be fed lunch, according to the school system.

The school on Prince William Parkway near U.S. 1 houses 928 students.

News
Students’ Work to be Featured in Space Station

PL Box LogoBy Kristina Schnack Kotlus

Prince William County, Va. — Team SuperNOVA, a robotics team from Osbourn Park, Gar-Field, and Freedom high schools in Prince William County, headed by teacher James Gillespie, was recently able to see their work inside the International Space Station.

In a unique competition run by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, secondary school students are able to access the space station using SPHERES satellites in a game which mimics mining operations on near-eath asteroids, according to a Prince William County Public Schools press release. The game is played online in the first few rounds, but having completed several rounds of competitions, the SuperNOVA team will now travel to MIT to watch a live broadcast on January 23 from the International Space Station. An astronaut will conduct the ZERO Robotics championship in microgravity.

“Getting to see their work inside the International Space Station is unlike any experience these students could have imagined, even if it is via satellite communications,” said Gillespie, via press release.

The nine members of team SuperNOVA are Michael Chang, Roxanne Jassawalla, James Jung, Benny Peake, Piper Sigrest, and Victoria Vanderbach from Osbourn Park High School; Wei Low and Oscar McCullough from Gar-Field High School; Joe Mehr from Freedom High School; and Osbourn Park Coach James Gillespie.

News
School TV Show Features Marine Museum

The first segment in the latest edition of “School Focus” looks at Volunteer Prince William’s Un-Trim a Tree Holiday Gift Program, which ensured that thousands of children in the Prince William community had gifts for the holidays.

Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS) employees helped coordinate the program and adopted hundreds of kids as well. The second segment of “School Focus” shows how the location of the National Museum of the Marine Corps, in Quantico, is a valuable resource for PWCS educators, with a teacher in residence at the museum an additional benefit.

Click here to read more.

-Unedited press release 

News
Schools’ Specialty Program Deadlines Approaching

By KRISTINA SCHNACK KOTLUS
Schools and Education Reporter

I’m not sure if anyone missed me, but I have, in fact, been on something of a “holiday hiatus” since November. I’ve been learning plenty of my own lessons as family continues to navigate our way through our first year of homeschooling our children, including that it is a full time job, especially around the holidays!

Around this time last year was when I first started to consider our schooling options, which I had never done before, and we started filling out forms and showing up at test dates and writing sessions. As I’ve shared before, my husband and I are both products of the plain old public school system, and I always assumed it would be what I wanted for my own children.

For reasons that are very individual and unique, however, some families decide they want things a little different for their children. Whether you have a future kindergartner, or will soon have a high school student, our local school systems offer some excellent options that can shape your child’s education in a unique way, and this is the time of year to be thinking about them.

All specialty programs for Prince William County are due on February 15.

Prince William County schools offers two “traditional schools”, Porter and Pennington, with both schools housing students in 1st-8th grades. Students must submit an application and, for 2nd-7th grade applicants, attend a writing session.

The county also has several in-school programs where students attend a school with both a traditional public program and a specialty program in the same building.

For elementary parents, there is an upcoming International Baccalaureate (IB) Early Years Meeting that will be held on January 25. Most of the county’s middle schools have already held their information sessions, but you can view a list of the schools that offer special programs , either IB Middle Years, World Languages, or Math and Science and find the application on the school’s website, along with additional information on the program’s structure.

Many county high schools offer special programs, ranging from technology to languages to performing arts. These programs can even be applied for online, and the presentations from the information sessions are available online in English or Spanish.

Students in grades 7-10 with an interest in math and science may also consider the Governor’s School at Innovation Park , which has an upcoming information session on Saturday, January 28.

Stafford County Schools offers IB programs at both Mountain View and Brooke Point high schools. At this point, students must contact administrators about essay dates, but the process is still open through April 1.

The Stafford Academy for Technology (STAT) is an option for current 8th graders who have a strong interest in science. The program is housed at Brooke Point. Students in the 9th-11th graders may also apply to the Governor’s School.

The options available to families through public specialty programs help to engage students and ensure they are being challenged sufficiently. Best of luck to those applying for spots for 2012-2013!

 

News
Ferry Farm Expected to Reopen Tuesday

The seal of Stafford County Public Schools.

Stafford County, Va. — It was a failed gas line that knocked out the heat at Ferry Farm Elementary School in Stafford County, and students today are once again displaced.

As they were on Thursday, Ferry Farm students are in classes held at Dixon Smith Middle School as repairs are being made at Ferry Farm. School officials decided to abandon the failed gas line and ordered Columbia Gas to install a new line that will service the building, said Stafford schools spokeswoman Valerie Cottongim.

The work is expected to be completed today and students back in classrooms at Ferry Farm on Tuesday, after the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday on Monday, said Cottongim.

News
More Damage Found, Ferry Farm Moves Classes

The seal of Stafford County Public Schools.

Stafford County, Va. — While students at Ferry Farm Elementary School will have classes Thursday, it won’t be at their regular school building. 

Unlike on Wednesday when classes at the school were canceled, students and staff of Ferry Farm will have class at 9 a.m. at Dixon Smith Middle School at 503 Deacon Road in Stafford County. Buses will run their regular routes, and students who normally get rides to school should be dropped off at Dixon Smith Middle School by 8:40 a.m.

“The Kindergarten and First Grade students and staff will be transported next door to Grafton Village Elementary School where they will spend their day. All students and staff in grades two through five will remain at Dixon Smith Middle School, said Stafford County Public Schools spokeswoman Valerie Cottongim.

Students will be dismissed from Dixon Smith Middle School at 3:30 p.m. Those who attend the YMCA before and after school program at Ferry Farm can be dropped off at the Grafton Village Elementary YMCA program, said Cottongim.

Parents with questions regarding Ferry Farm students may call 658-6000 beginning at 7:00 a.m. Thursday morning.

Stafford schools announced early Wednesday classes at the school would be canceled after the heating system failed and that it would be impossible for officials to find a way to heat the building. Cottongim said more damage was found today at Ferry Farm Elementary but was not clear how extensive it was.

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