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. Keep Reading…

“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

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

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.

Kindergarten registration now open in Stafford and Fredericksburg

Stock Photo

Stock Photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, visit or for Stafford County, or for the City of Fredericksburg.

Weems elementary wins education award in Manassas

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

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

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


Make-up plan approved for Stafford schools

The seal of Stafford County Public Schools.

The seal of Stafford County Public Schools.

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

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

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

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

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

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

GMU to host four STEM competitions for kids on April 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UVA to launch new sexual misconduct policy in coming weeks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manassas Park High School lets students lead parent-teacher conferences


School hopes change will motive students to perform better  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rippon Middle School will undergo an eight classroom addition.
The addition will cost $7.4 million dollars.
The county currently requires 80 acres of space to build a school.
The county is looking at how to accommodate students with the acreage requirements, in the eastern end of the county.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robots in the pool at the Manassas Park Community Center. [Photo: Mary Davidson]
The Northern Virginia SeaPerch challenge held at the Manassas Park Community Center. [Photo: Mary Davidson]
SeaPerch identifies itself as a learning experience. [Photo: Mary Davidson]
Students place their ROVs in the water. [Photo: Mary Davidson]
An ROV out of water. [Photo: Mary Davidson]
An ROV in the pool. [Photo: Mary Davidson]
SeaPerch is an annual challenge. [Photo: Mary Davidson]
Medals were awarded as part of the SeaPerch challenge.[Photo: Mary Davidson]
Several students participated in the SeaPerch challenge. [Photo: Mary Davidson]
At the bottom of the pool.[Photo: Mary Davidson]
SeaPerch teaches naval architecture principals. [Photo: Mary Davidson]
Remotely Operated Vehicle [Photo: Mary Davidson]
Students operate their ROV. [Photo: Mary Davidson]

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

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

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

School board reverses decision on transgender student in Stafford

Jonathan Adams is the parent of a transgender child who sought to use the girls'  bathroom at Hartwood Elementary School in Stafford County.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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