By Kristina Schnack Kotlus
Schools and Education Reporter
Prince William County, Va. –– Some Prince William County Schools will be starting and ending their day at a different time next year. Prince William County uses a three-tier approach when busing children to school which allows drivers to serve multiple routes.
High schools will begin between 7:20 and 7:30 a.m. Middle school start times range from 8:10 to 8:20 a.m., and elementary schools have the widest range, with schools beginning their day anywhere from 8:15 to 9:20 a.m.
This year three schools will be beginning and ending at a new time. Antietam Elementary is one of three schools in Prince William County that will begin the day at 8:15 a.m., with 2:40 p.m. marking the end of the school day.
“It is typical that a couple of schools’ bell times have to be adjusted each year, particularly when we have additional schools coming online”, said Ken Blackstone for PWCS.
Patriot High School in Nokesville (opening this fall) and Marsteller Middle School in Bristow are the two other schools that will experience schedule changes.
Parents at the affected schools should have received notification via website about the changes. The full schedule of start and end times for Prince William County Schools is available online.
By Kristina Schnack Kotlus
Schools and Education Reporter
Prince William County, Va. –– In an ongoing effort to keep parents involved and informed in their child’s education, Prince William County Schools will be switching to Parent Portal, an online interface for parents.
Previously, PWCS has used EduLink, which was essentially a product that interfaced between SchoolFusion, which hosts individual county school’s websites.
This change comes along with an upgrade to a new student information system a sort of “mainframe” that holds all critical student information, a project that is a year in process.
“It has been many years since we have made such a change so the upgraded ability this will give us is significant in many ways. Unfortunately, these abilities come with a price for parents, who will need to re-register their SchoolFusion accounts in order to keep receiving updates or log into their school’s website. New accounts may be requested and passwords and login will be available from schools this fall,” said Blackstone.
In the meantime, Blackstone recommends parents follow the same procedure as in years past.
“Parents will need to back up any documents that they may have saved as part of their SchoolFusion classroom account…at the end of the year, the old classroom data, including these saved documents, are deleted in preparation for the next year’s data. We’ve posted directions on how to save the files, which is extremely easy to do,” he added.
Woodbridge, Va. –– Following concussion-related deaths and students who committed suicide last year, a new policy affecting student athletes in Prince William County will begin in September.
Prince William County Public Schools announced Monday beginning with the 2011-12 school year, all athletes and their parents or guardians will be required to attend a concussion education session before being allowed to participate in sports try-outs.
The decision to adopt a concussion policy was made in April 2011 and brings the county up to new Virginia Code Standards requiring concussion training. Virginia law now requires parents and their students to sign a form attesting they received training on concussions prior to student athletic participation. The bill was championed by Virginia State Senator Ralph Northam (D-6th, Norfolk) who is also a pediatric neurologist, and won unanimous approval from the Virginia House and Senate.
“Prince William County Public Schools supports the need to ensure that its staff, students, and the community are aware of the seriousness of brain injuries and concussions and how they can affect the student’s abilities in the educational setting,” stated a press release from Prince William schools.
While concussions are obviously not a regional issue, Prince William County was particularly affected last September when school board member Gil Trenum’s son, Austin, committed suicide in September after a concussion on the football field.
Presentation dates and times for each middle and high school will be provided by the schools after July 1, according to the school system. Parents are encouraged to contact their child’s school for an up-to-date presentation schedule during July.
Prince William County, Va. –– In a memo released June 1, Prince William County Public School officials said the implementation of the Standard Technical Diploma for graduating high school seniors would be delayed by one year due to recent legislation. PWCS named Virginia General Assembly House Bill 1554 and Senate Bill 810 as the cause of the delay.
In a Virginia Department of Education report, however, it is noted that neither House Bill 1554 or Senate Bill 810 prohibits a school division from making the standard or advanced technical diplomas available to students who entered high school prior to 2012-2013 –– the year Prince William County Schools plans to begin offering them ––as long as the requirements have been met.
However, schools are not required to award either technical diploma until the class beginning 9th grade in 2012/2013.
Prince William County Schools Community Relations Supervisor Irene Cromer said that the decision was made by not the school system, but rather the Virginia Department of Education. “VDOE’s delay gives PWCS the time needed to put into place the necessary courses, reconfigure credits, allocate budget resources, and all related tasks associated with this level of change” she said.
Manassas, Va. –– Another school employee in Prince William County faces sex charges.
The victim in the case told police that she engaged in sexual activity with an employee of Stonewall Jackson High School in Manassas while she was 17-year-old student at the school in 2004 and 2005.
The employee worked as an attendance officer and basketball coach, and some of the sex acts took place at the school while others took place in Prince William County, said Prince William police spokesman Jonathan Perok.
Nsonji White, 28, of Manassas, was arrested yesterday and charged with five counts of crimes against nature and indecent liberties by a custodian, said Perok.
He was held without bond and his court date was not released.
White, who has worked with the school system since 2003, was placed on administrative leave, said Prince William schools spokesman Ken Blackstone.
The arrest comes less than a month since a teacher at Woodbridge Middle School was charged after a 13-year-old student said he inappropriately touched her.
Prior to that arrest, a teacher at Beville Middle School in Dale City was arrested on similar charges, as were school employees at two Woodbridge-area high schools.
Since April, five Prince William County Public Schools employees have been arrested on sex-related charges.
Woodbridge, Va. — Students from Amy Wise’s seventh-grade language arts class at Rippon Middle School participated in the annual Veteran’s of Foreign Wars “Patriot’s Pen” Essay Contest. Patriot’s Pen is a nationwide youth essay-writing contest that gives students in grades 7 and 8 the opportunity to express their views on democracy. More than 85,000 students participate in the annual contest.
Contestants wrote a 300–400 word essay based on an annual patriotic theme, which was evaluated by veterans who have a deep personal connection with the idea of patriotism. This year students wrote an essay on the theme, “Does Patriotism Still Matter?”
Top national winners each receive a savings bond anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000. The first place winner receives a $10,000 savings bond and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington D.C. Scholarships are also awarded to students at the local level.
Rippon Middle School participated in the contest sponsored by the officers and members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, General Lewis B. Puller Post 1503. More than 80 students participated in this local contest with Rippon Middle School students capturing three of six possible awards.
Congratulations to the following Rippon Middle School students who received Scholarship Awards for their submissions:
David Smith, 2nd place, $250
Jneva Norfleet, 4th place, $150
Shams Hamid, 5th place , $100
Fairfax County, Va. –– Fairfax County Public Schools has adopted a budget for fiscal year 2012 which includes expanding full day kindergarten to all of Fairfax County.
The $2.2 billion budget also includes a one percent market scale adjustment for all employees and step increased for those eligible, according to a Fairfax County Public Schools release.
While several Fairfax County schools already have full-day kindergarten, the 36 remaining schools where the program was not yet implemented will begin in September, which will include the creation of 152 new positions to support the program.
School Board Chairman Kathy Smith noted “we were pleased to be able to complete the rollout of full-day kindergarten, which is so important in preparing our children to achieve their potential.”
The budget keeps a reserve balance of $60.6 million to address future obligations to the Virginia Retirement System, and also includes $4.3 million to help implement mandated online testing for Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) tests.
The Board also voted to eliminate fees for Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) tests, according to the press release.
The 2012 budget predicts a 2,333 student increase, including a 16.5 percent increase in English for Speakers of Other Languages. The budget also predicts that one in four students will be eligible for the free or reduced priced meal program.
The school division announced today filters that blocked such online content have been removed, and that the removal does not compromise mandatory state and federal obligations to block objectionable information, the school system says.
The students can now have access to the information, as long the content is “information based.”
“Internet filtering is difficult, sometimes imprecise, and constantly evolving. It is nearly impossible to find the perfect balance between the protection of students, freedom of speech, and equal access, said Keith Imon, associate superintendent for Communications and Technology Services. “However, the decision to discontinue the use of the LGBT filter is within this balance.”
The school system received a letter last month from the Virginia American Civil Liberties Union saying the school system’s blockage some LGBT websites also blocked them from accessing issues concerning the Gay and Lesbian communities.
The organization concluded it was against students’ first amendment rights to be denied access to such issues.
Stafford, Va. –– Stafford County School Board officials have approved step raises for most employees in 2011.
The raises are part of the new $237.6 million budget that will begin June 1. The approved budget contains significant changes from the original proposal made in March, which contained no raises and cut 56 positions through attrition, reports Fredericksburg.com.
Additional money to keep the positions was pulled from a health care find, which County supervisors said was over funded.
In addition to the step raises most employees will receive, those ineligible for step increases due to their pay grade will receive 2.5% bonuses.
School Board officials did not vote on contributing to a trust fund to provide post-retirement health benefits, but Stafford County Public Schools Superintendent Randy Bridges has recommended the issue be revisited during the summer session.
Several schools in the Potomac Communities have placed among the top 100 in the area according to the Washington Post’s “High School Challenge”.
The survey ranks high schools in the Washington area. C.D. Hylton High School in Woodbridge placed number 58 followed directly by Lorton’s South County Secondary School. Gar-Field Senior High School in Woodbridge came in at number 84, Stafford’s Colonial Forge High School registered just behind that at 86, and Forest Park High School, also in Woodbridge, finished out at 99.
This year’s rankings featured some changes from the 2010 Challenge. Hylton’s position moved 10 places from last year’s 48th position. South County also moved in the wrong direction from last year’s 44th. Gar Field was in 77th position last year, although Colonial Forge held steady at 86th. Forest Park made a positive change, however, moving from 101 last year into the top 100 this year.
The annual challenge ratings are based on “a simple formula” according to The Washington Post, with rankings derived from dividing the number of college-level tests a school gave by the number of graduating seniors. The Washington Post feels this rating “can reveal the level of a high school’s commitment to preparing average students for college.”
So were the additional Prince William police officers called in for extra security during the school’s day-long celebration for achieving high scores on standards of learning exams.
Everyone hopes were dashed, however, as the pop star was never scheduled to appear at the school.
A school employee working on a committee to help promote the school came in contact with an unauthorized representative from Usher, who said the singer would appear Friday.
That got the attention of students, parents and other members of the community who became excited for the chance to see the performer in their own backyard.
“We had the same information as everyone else,” said Prince William police spokesman Jonathan Perok.
Extra officers were posted Friday in the school’s gym and on an outside field, where school officials told students Usher would take center stage.
Prince William County Public Schools spokesman Ken Blackstone said they are still trying to learn more about what lead to this miscommunication.
They do say Woodbridge Middle School did not pay any money to the authorized agent, nor will they have to reimburse the police department any money for the extra officers that were on hand that day.
In the future, the school system plans to involve more people in the decision-making process when it comes to promoting events, said Blackstone.
The budget is $11,000 less than Prince William County’s 2012 operating budget approved last week.
With the Prince William County School Board’s approval of its $879 million FY 2012 budget on May 4, the construction of a new elementary school planned for western Prince William will be begin a year earlier, employees will see a small raise, and many schools will get technology upgrades. The cost of school lunches will increase by 5 cents.
The total compensation increase of 2.35 percent for employees includes a 1.75 percent raise and a 0.6 percent bonus that would be paid in October and January.
Dave Cline, associate superintendent for Finance and Support Services, pointed out in his presentation to the School Board that the general lunch price increase is mandated by the federal government under the Federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
Additional revenue from the increase will be used to provide healthier meals that include more fresh fruits and vegetables, which generally cost more.
The scheduled opening of the new school on Devlin Road was advanced from 2015 to 2014 to help address continued growth issues on the western end of the county and to minimize the use of additional trailers, said Cline.
-Prince William County Public Schools statement