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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

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.

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.


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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 

Schools’ Specialty Program Deadlines Approaching

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!


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.

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.

Ferry Farm Elementary Closed Today

The seal of Stafford County Public Schools.

Stafford County, Va. — Ferry Farm Elementary School in Stafford County is closed today after school officials say the building has no heat. Parents, students, and staff have all been told not to report to the school today.

The YMCA before and after school programs, as well as all after-school activities have been canceled.


7 Stafford Schools Exceed Standards

The seal of Stafford County Public Schools.

Seven Stafford Schools were among the 447 in Virginia to earn 2012 Virginia Index of Performance awards for advanced learning and achievement. The incentive program recognizes schools and divisions that far exceed minimum state and federal accountability standards and achieve excellence goals established by the governor and the board.

Garrisonville Elementary received the 2012 Governor’s Award for Educational Excellence by meeting all state and federal achievement benchmarks for the last two consecutive years and achieving all applicable excellence goals.

Two schools, Colonial Forge High School and Rockhill Elementary School, earned the Board of Education Excellence award, the second-tier honor in the VIP program.

Four elementary schools, Ferry Farm, Grafton Village, Stafford and Winding Creek, were among the 171 schools that earned the Board of Education Competence to Excellence Awards.

Governor Bob McDonnell stated, “I congratulate the educators in these schools and divisions for their unwavering commitment to academic excellence and to the success of their students,” McDonnell said. “They put students first and maintain high expectations for instruction, learning and student achievement.”

These schools will be recognized at the Stafford School Board meeting on Tuesday, January 24th, for their accomplishments.

-Unedited press release 

Colonial Forge Nets New Principal

The seal of Stafford County Public Schools.

Stafford, Va. — A former school principal in Manassas will take over at Colonial Forge High School in Stafford, the school now infamously known for the Banana Man controversy.

Michael Byers will begin his duties at the school Jan. 3, after relocating from his current position as assistant principal at Briar Woods High School in Loudoun County, said Stafford schools spokeswoman Valerie Cottongim.

During Byers’ 17 years in education, he has taught health and worked as an athletic trainer in Manassas Public Schools, and was promoted to assistant principal at Osbourn High School in that city.

Colonial Forge had been led by an interim administrator following the resignation of Dr. Karen Spillman, who ordered the suspension of a 14-year-old student who ran onto a football field during a game wearing a banana costume.

Beyers has worked in Loudoun County since 2005, is a graduate of George Mason University, and earned his Master’s degree from Virginia Tech.

UMW Students Want Louder Voice within School

Students who recently turned protesters at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg say the school has increasingly made education into a business.

In preparation for a planned “Occupy Mary Wash” event, similar to an Occupy Wall Street protest, the UMW Bullet reported earlier this month the students held a teach-in to express their frustrations about lack of representation on the school’s Board of Visitors.

“What’s important is that we all realize that education is becoming a business. What we can do with the BOV is to show them that we want our own voice,” the newspaper quoted one of the students.

Read the full story at

Holiday Craft Show Benefits Music Program

PL Box LogoWoodbridge, Va. — Gar-Field Senior High School will hold its annual holiday craft fair Saturday, Dec. 10.

The show will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the school, at 14000 Smoketown Road in Woodbridge across from Potomac Mills mall.

All proceeds from the show will benefit the school’s orchestra program with the purchase of new instruments, new music, awards and scholarships, and instrument maintenance, said craft show coordinator Kathy Kann.

This year there will be more than 150 spaces made available to crafters to showcase homemade food items and crafts like candles, jewelry, wood items, clothing, paintings, quilts, holiday decorations, stained glass, and more, said Kann.

Admission to the show and parking is free.

Gar-Field Lays Veterans Day Wreath

MCJROTC at Gar-Field Senior High School in Woodbridge lay a wreath at the school in honor of Veterans Day.

Woodbridge, Va. – Gar-Field High Senior High School in Woodbridge on Thursday held its annual Veterans Day wreath-laying ceremony Thursday morning.

Click here to see photos and see coverage of the event.

School Identifies Risks of Online Publishing

Stafford, Va. — Students at Brooke Pointe High School will get a lesson on responsible Facebook posting.

The month-long initiative, Pause Before You Post, begins with school officials showing students an informative video about posting personal messages on social media sites like Facebook for all to see, as well as identifying the risks and dangers of cyberbullying.

“With over 93 percent of teens using some form of digital media for personal publishing, we wanted to provide a vehicle to create awareness and start conversations in school and at home about using media responsibility,” said Brooke Point High School Counseling Director Dr. Marialena Bridges.

There are dangers to posting too much information online, officials said, including damage to personal reputations and the looming threat that discussions or arguments that begin online could carry over into real life.

Students at the school who sign a pledge banner will also be given a “Pause” pin to wear to show support for responsible online publishing, said Marialena.

Brooke Point High School opened in 1993 off of Courthouse Road (Va. 630) and currently has 1,650 students and 184 staff members.

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