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What’s in a name change? Officials react to Godwin decision


Officials said the decision to rename Mills Godwin Middle School was the right compromise to make.

There were two failed tied votes during a March 2 Prince William County School Board meeting. The first to name new elementary school near the corner of Spriggs and Minnieville roads after fallen Prince William County firefighter Kyle Wilson, who died nine years ago at age 24. The second was to name the school after 87-year-old Army officer turned educator and community philanthropist, Dr. George Hampton. (more…)

Where will Manassas students go after redistricting?


On Monday, February 22 and Wednesday, February 24, Mayfield Intermediate School will host a School Board Meeting and redistricting presentation from 7 to 9 p.m.

The Monday meeting will focus on students from pre-k to fourth grade while the Wednesday meeting will focus on students in fifth and sixth grade. The city school division has been working on redistricting, particularly within elementary schools.

This has prompted the question: “Who will be affected and where are the students going to go?”

The meeting is meant to be a community engagement to discuss the proposed boundaries for the upcoming 2016-2017 school year. The initiative for these new district lines is due to the pertinent overcrowding within the elementary schools of Manassas. (more…)

Blizzard brings delays for report cards, college transcripts

(Photo: Prince William County Public Schools)

As students mourn the loss of their beloved snow days, some stop to ask themselves; What does this mean for the remainder of the school year?

Prince William County  Public Schools are allotted 12 snow days this school year. After the #sNOVAlanche storm that blanketed the region with up to to two feet of snow January 22 and 23 , Prince William County Public School students and teachers have about 5 snow days left.

As of now, Prince William public schools students will not have to make up the missed time, according to school officials. (more…)

Prince William County Schools open two hours late Tuesday

(Photo: Prince William County Public Schools)

Prince William County Public Schools will open two hours late Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016.

More in a press release: 

On Tuesday, January 19, All Prince William County Public Schools will open two hours late due to the projected sub-zero temperatures in the morning. SACC will open two hours late. These precautions will ensure the safety of all students, especially the thousands who walk to school.

What other area school divisions are saying about the forecasted cold weather(more…)

Prince William middle school students awarded $23,000 Grant

Virginia Delegate Richard Anderson presented to Prince William County Middle School students about the role of government in Virginia to kick off the 2016 Civic Engagement program.

Prince William middle school students awarded $23,000 GrantThis grant was made possible through the Haymarket Fund, a donor advised fund at the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia. This fund supports families and children with an emphasis on health, education, community development and improvement, and arts and culture.

The after-school program kicked off last week with a special program at George Mason University’s Science and Technology campus in Manassas. Organized by Jeff Girvan, Supervisor of History and Social Sciences for Prince William County Public Schools, the students heard from Virginia Delegate Richard Anderson, enjoyed a reenactment by LeCount Holmes about the life of Frederick Douglass, and learned about a life of service from Colonel Richard Camp, USMC, Retired.

Their learning will continue with workshops and sessions in which they will identify a problem to study, gather information, examine solutions, develop a public policy, and create an action plan to influence the appropriate government or governmental agency to adopt the proposed policy.

In February, the students will take a field trip to Richmond for a tour of the state capital with Delegate Anderson. The program will culminate in June with final presentations to government officials or agencies responsible for implementing the new policy.

“We funded this new Civic Engagement Program in Prince William County Public Schools because we believe it will both teach and encourage active citizen engagement with all levels of government,” said Eileen Ellsworth, President of the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia. “It is a terrific opportunity for these middle school students to acquire a much deeper understanding and appreciation of the role of government in our society and their capacity to influence the course of events.”


New Manassas school to replace old Baldwin Elementary


A new school is opening in the Manassas area in the winter of January 2017.

Due to overcrowding in grade levels fifth and sixth, this new school is being built to relieve overcrowded classrooms. These students will be coming from the Baldwin attendance zone.

This new school will be succeeding the soon to be former Baldwin. It will still be known as Baldwin Elementary School and Baldwin Intermediate School. A portion of the new school will accommodate the Pre-K through fourth grade students. The intermediate portion of the school will accommodate the fifth and sixth grade students.

According to Almeta Radford the Public Communications Coordinator for Manassas City Public Schools, the new building is 140,188 square feet. Pre-K through fourth grade students will have 32 designated classrooms while 12 classrooms will be for the fifth and sixth grade students. The six encore classes for gym, art, and music will be shared.

Construction of the new Baldwin began in March of 2015. The elementary side will be opening in January 2017 for 700 students. The fifth grade side of the school is scheduled to open in the fall of 2017. The sixth grade side is scheduled to open the following fall in 2018. Collectively, 316 students will fill the intermediate side of the school will be expecting 316 students.

About 140 staff members are expected to work throughout the school building.  


Retiring Prince William School Board members get hearty send off

From Left to Right: Willie Deutsch, Coles District (elect), Alyson Satterwhite, Gainesville District, Supervisor Maureen Caddigan, Potomac District, Milt Johns, Chairman - At Large, Betty Covington, Potomac District, Loree Williams, Woodbridge District, Dr Michael Otaigbe, Coles District


Only on Potomac Local 

Residents came together on Saturday, December 12 at Brothers Encore Italian Restaurant in Montclair to celebrate the public service of School Board members Milt Johns and Betty Covington.

Speakers included Alyson Satterwhite, Gainesville District School Board Representative, Gil Trenum, Brentsville District School Board Representative, Dr. Michael Otaigbe, Coles District School Board Representative and Tim Singstock who organized the event.

The attendees focused on the dedication and commitment of these two public servants.

Covington was first elected to the School Board in the Dumfries District in 1995. She stepped down and went back to work as an Elementary School principal until running again in 2003.

In addition to her service on the School Board where she has served continuously from 2003 through 2015, Covington has committed over half a century of her life to Prince William County Schools.

Johns was elected to represent the Brentsville District in 2003. He was elected Chairman – At Large in 2007 and will serve through the end of 2015. Johns did not seek reelection this year. When speaking, Johns noted that his single greatest accomplishment as Chairman of the School Board was “opening the schools on time every year.”

Neabsco District School Board member Lisa Bell and Coles District School Board member Dr. Micheal Otaigbe will also retire from the School Board at the end of December. 

A new School Board was sworn in earlier this month following the Nov. 3 election

Prince William County’s new ‘Parkway Elementary’ would sit next to Chinn Library

(Photo: Prince William County Public Schools)

Parents will get their say over a planned elementary school next to Chinn Park Regional Library in Woodbridge. 

A public hearing is scheduled Jan. 7, 2016 to give parents new information about the planned school that aims to relieve overcrowded conditions at other nearby elementary schools.

Here’s more in a press release: 

School officials will hold a public meeting on January 7 to discuss the proposed elementary school near Prince William Parkway at Chinn Park. The original meeting date of December 15 was changed to January 7 to allow staff more time to address concerns raised at the first community meeting. The change will also provide additional time for all interested members of the public to become informed, and will introduce additional transparency.

The new school is scheduled to be ready by the start of school in 2018 and relieve overcrowding at Vaughan, Westridge, Marumsco Hills, Kerrydale, Springwoods, and other area schools.

Learn more, provide feedback, and have concerns addressed at this second public meeting hosted by the PWCS Office of Facilities Services.

PW Parkway Elementary School at Chinn Park Public Meeting
Thursday, January 7, 2016, 7-9 p.m.
Gar-Field High School, 14000 Smoketown Road, Woodbridge, VA 22192

Now identified as the “PW Parkway” Elementary School, the new school had been described as “Elementary School East (Neabsco Mills Area)” in the School Division’s Capital Improvements Program (CIP) for Fiscal Years 2016-25. The proposed location will address student housing needs in the Neabsco Mills area as well as the western Lake Ridge area, based on current elementary school boundaries.

The CIP provides general guidance over a ten-year period to address the demand for new schools, additions to existing schools, site acquisition, school renewal, upgrading, and maintenance of PWCS infrastructure. The plan is reviewed and updated annually, with long-range plans adjusted to reflect the latest enrollment projections and financial limitations.

This is the second planned information session for the new school, according to a Prince William County Public Schools spokeswoman. The January 7 session was rescheduled from December 15. 

Santa visits students at Potomac High School in Woodbridge


Students at Potomac Senior High School in Woodbridge had breakfast with an elf. 

Santa Claus came to visit the students who gathered for the annual “Breakfast with Santa” event, according to Julie Ericson who sent in these photos. 

The Student Council Association organized the breakfast and raised hundreds of dollars to provide gifts to children in attendance, according to Ericson.

Crafts and face painting rounded out the fun day for the children.

Potomac Senior High School is located at 3401 Panther Pride Drive in Woodbridge. A total of 1,630 students attend classes there taught by a total of 110 teachers.

“What a crowd! Those kids have done an amazing job for these little ones. Definitely worthy of sharing with our community,” Ericson told Potomac Local.

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New Prince William School Board sworn in

school board

Take a look at the new Prince William County School Board. 

Pictured from left to right: Willie Deutsch, Coles District, Diane Raulston, Neabsco District, Ryan Sawyers, Chairman At-large, Lillie Jessie, Occoquan District, Dr. Steven Walts, Prince William County Schools Superintendent, Loree Williams, Woodbridge District, Gil Trenum, Brentsville District, Alyson Satterwhite, Gainesville District, and Justin Wilk, Potomac District.

Newly elected members of the Board — Sawyers, Deutsch, Raulston, and Wilk — were sworn into office at a special ceremony last night at the Edward Kelly Leadership Center at Independent Hill. They will take their seats at the first regularly scheduled Prince William County School Board meeting on January 6. 

Outgoing members of the Board were also recognized this week. 

Here’s more from a schools press release: 

Departing Board Members Lisa Bell, Betty Covington, Dr. Michael Otaigbe, and Chairman-At Large Milt Johns all spoke of the privilege of serving the community and fighting for the needs of students. The long-serving members likened themselves to siblings, occasionally squabbling, but always pulling together as a family to get things done.

PWCS Superintendent, Dr. Steven Walts, led tributes to the School Board leadership for leading the Division’s ongoing drive toward “Providing A World-Class Education.” He noted the role of the departing members in giving all students a foundation for success by bringing full-day kindergarten to Prince William County. Walts also lauded members’ continuing support for improvements in teaching, security, quality facilities, and student support.

Johns Walts, Otaigbe, and Bell all decided not to seek reelection to the School Board.

Johns Walts served on the School Board for 11 years, first as the Brenstville District representative from 2004 to 2008, and then two terms as Chairman At-large from 2008 to 2015. 

Bell served six years on the School Board and was first sat on the Board in 2010 to fill a vacancy. Bell was reelected to her first full term in 2012. 

For Otaigbe, this marks his 12th and final year on the School Board. 

Wilk beat out Covington, who had served on the Board since 2003, by eight points in the November election. 


Students must decide by Dec. 1 if they want to attend Colgan High School next fall

(Photo: Prince William County Public Schools)

Some students who now attend Brentsville, Forest Park, Hylton, and Osbourn Park high schools must decide if they want to stay at their schools, or attend the new Colgan High School opening next year.

For affected students, Colgan High School will become their “base” school because they live within the boundaries of the new school. 

Students must make their decision and notify Prince William County Public Schools by December 1. 

Here’s more in a press release: 

Facing December 1 deadline: 

Current HS sophomores living inside the Colgan boundaries have a one-time choice of whether to accept their boundary-based assignment to Colgan as their new “base school,” or stay with their current “base school.”

• Indicate the “base school” decision by turning in the signed bottom portion of the “decision letter” to the student’s current PWCS high school before its office closes for the day on December 1. No further action is needed if the form was already submitted. Decision letters were sent to eligible students in October.

Print a decision form for submission if the original letter is unavailable.

• All students may apply for admission to PWCS Specialty Programs regardless of their “base school” decision. Specialty Program admission is subject to separate PWCS regulations.

Not Facing December 1 deadline:

Current freshmen living inside the Colgan boundaries do not have a “base school” decision to make. Except for the sophomores identified above, all base school assignments are determined by enrollment boundaries and are not subject to choice.

• Previous letters to freshmen were intended only to confirm their boundarybased assignment and specialty program options.

• All students may apply for admission to Specialty Programs subject to PWCS regulations.

• Acceptance in a Specialty Program does not change the “base school” designations.

Colgan High School is located on Route 234 near Hoadly Road and includes the county’s first aquatics facility to be built inside a county school.

Come for the Manassas Christmas parade, stay for lunch and learn why historic Santa wears red, white, and blue

harpers santa

On Saturday, December 5, Manassas will host its annual Christmas Parade in Downtown.

Why not make a day of it and come have lunch with Santa Claus at the Old Manassas Courthouse located at 9248 Lee Avenue in Manassas, at the corner of Lee and Grant avenues. He’ll be once again dusting off that old patriotic suit of red, white, and blue for his visit.

The suit, which resembles our nation’s flag was created by famed German Born cartoonist Thomas Nast and first appeared in Harper’s Weekly on January 3, 1863 and was used as a recruiting piece for the northern war effort during the Civil War.

Santa was illustrated giving Christmas gifts to soldiers outside Fredericksburg, and was meant to soften the blow suffered by the Federal Army under General Ambrose Burnside earlier in December of 1862.

The menu will consist of oven roasted turkey, honey baked ham, home-style mashed potatoes, baked macaroni and cheese, freshly cut bacon herbed green beans, fresh cranberry sauce, giant cookies, and freshly baked pumpkin pie.

Beverages will include spiced apple cider, freshly brewed coffee, and hot chocolate. After lunch, bring your camera for a picture with Santa and an opportunity to discuss your Christmas list with him.

Then make an authentic 19th Century Christmas decoration to take home. Participants are encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped toy to donate to Toys for Tots.

The cost is $20 per person ages 11 and up, and $10 for children 10 and younger. Lunch will begin at 12:30 p.m. in the Upstairs Ball Room.

Elevator access is available to those who need it. For more information or to make a reservation please contact the Prince William County Historic Preservation Division at (703) 792-4754.

How you can open your home to a cultural exchange student

Cox family 1

Interested in hosting international high school students? Want to share a piece of American culture with your student and learn from your student’s culture?

Since 1951, Youth for Understanding (YFU) has been hosting students in the U.S. and sending students abroad for cross cultural exchange. YFU hosts thousands of international students from around 70 countries in Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia every year. 

Christina Cox is a local elementary school teacher in Northern Virginia and spoke about her and her family’s experiences hosting international students and why you should too. 


1. What made you decide to begin hosting international students? 

I was approached at work by a co-worker that said her son’s high school was looking for volunteers to host. My sister was [an] exchange student with AFS and attended the University of Neufchatel in Switzerland, and in the past, my family had hosted a girl from Dijon, France, and another boy from the south of France.

Also, throughout my growing years, we often had visitors from Ecuador and Colombia. It was common for friends and relatives to send their kids to us for the summer to practice their English and learn more about American culture. Those experiences, combined with our own experiences of living in Canada, Eastern Europe, and Germany, gave us a pretty good idea of what to expect.

2. What year did you decide to open up your house?

We hosted our first exchange student, a young girl from France, in the summer of 2007. Our son, Alexander, was in middle school and our daughter, Mercedes, was entering high school. While she was a very sweet and easy-going guest, she wrote on her application that she spoke an intermediate level of English.

In fact, she spoke nearly no English. I had to interpret for her so she could communicate with the rest of the family. Once, when we were out to lunch, she and Mercedes had shared some tacos. When I asked if she wanted another one, she said, “sure, sure.” When I brought three more to the table, she scoffed and said, “no, no, no,” holding her stomach and indicating she was full and couldn’t eat anymore. We continue to laugh about that to this day.

3.  Favorite memories, moments?

The following year, we took a break from hosting, but the next year we were again approached by Terra Lingua [a different program], the exchange company, and asked to please consider taking a boy from Spain. He was Alexander’s age, was arriving in just over a week, and still had no host family. We accepted him, and that was the beginning of a long and lovely friendship between two boys and their families.

Inigo came to us from Bilboa, Spain. While he did speak a fair amount of English, he improved immensely through continued study in Spain as well as on his return visits to the U.S. Most recently, he stayed with us for his fourth time. He and his parents still communicate with us via Skype every few months. We keep up with each family’s happenings, as well as discuss what’s happening with each country’s politics, economy, and social issues. It makes for a candid and insightful exchange.

Alexander has also visited with Inigo’s family in Spain, even joining them on the family holiday to the Canary Islands. Some of our favorite memories were taking him camping for his very first time ever and introducing him to Dance Dance Revolution games.

Another funny memory is that we always thought we ate more than the Spanish family and that he was probably shocked. As it turns out, he now says he eats just as much and was always hungry, but didn’t want to be rude.

4. Why other families should consider becoming host families.

Other families should consider hosting a foreign exchange student because it allows you to share the best of American culture and the local area. Regardless of where you live in the U.S., this is simply a beautiful place, where people are kind, generous, and genuinely interested in creating positive relationships with people of other cultures. We have much to be proud of and much to share.

5. How rewarding is it to be able to host a student?

We loved being a host family. We know that there does not always exist an automatic chemistry between host and guests, but when there is such chemistry, it becomes an extension of your family. These are friendships that you can maintain for a lifetime.

6. How rewarding was it for your students? What do you think they gained?

I believe my children gained a great friend and extended family in Spain. I believe our guest gained an extended family here in the US and a much better understanding of the American way of life and culture. He can now speak from first hand experience about American culture and hospitality.

If you’re interested and want to learn more about being a host family with Youth for Understanding, please contact local Host Family Recruiter volunteer Amber Champ at and/or visit for more information. 

Why Principal Hamish Brewer is loved by students and teachers at Occoquan Elementary School

Hamish Brewer is a hometown hero.

The Occoquan Elementary School principal was honored November 13 during a live morning news broadcast on WTTG-TV Channel 5 in Washington. He was presented the “hometown hero” award for his work with students, parents, and teachers.

A third-grade student nominated Brewer for the award. It is his fourth year as principal at the elementary school located at 12915 Occoquan Road in Woodbridge.

“When you’re working with students you have to have meaningful relationships,” Brewer told Potomac Local. “When children feel like they can trust the people around them they feel like they can become vulnerable and available.”

Brewer demonstrates his willingness to connect with students over the morning announcements. Earlier this fall, Brewer’s favorite football team the Pittsburgh Steelers had won a game. Dressed in a Steelers jersey, Brewer opened his morning announcements with excitement over his team’s victory the night before.

“When a teacher and student are able to connect and collaborate, the students feel like they can share, they feel like they can take risks with learning,” said Brewer.

Brewer worked at Ellis Elementary School in Prince William County, just outside Manassas before coming to Occoquan Elementary. Brewer came to the U.S. from his home country of New Zeland 12 years ago. He also served as the Regional Director of VIF International Education, a cultural exchange program for teachers.

Brewer also serves as a volunteer firefighter in Stafford County.

NOVA Woodbridge begins HVAC dual enrollment for high school students

HVAC "AIR" Dual Enrollment Students at the NOVA-Woodbridge Campus.

The Natural Science and Mathematics Division at Northern Virginia Community College’s Woodbridge Campus has partnered with Prince William County Public Schools and SySTEMic Solutions to offer on-campus Air Conditioning and Refrigeration dual enrollment courses to Prince William County high school students.

The program began this semester with students from Gar-Field, Freedom, Potomac, Woodbridge, and PACE East high schools. Five days a week the students attend HVAC classes at the NOVA-Woodbridge Campus in the morning and return to their respective high schools in the afternoon to complete their high school coursework.

Students will complete college-level coursework to achieve credits toward obtaining an HVAC-R and Facilities Services Technology Certificate by the time they graduate from high school. Prince William County Public Schools Supervisor of Career and Technical Education Doug Wright, NOVA Dual Enrollment Coordinator Courtney Hill, Dean of Natural Science & Mathematics Alison Thimblin, Assistant Dean of Natural Science & Mathematics Adam Johnson, Director of SySTEMic Solutions Amy Harris, and Rusty Jensen, of the NOVA Woodbridge faculty worked together to develop and launch the AIR Dual Enrollment program.

Antonio Sorto, a sophomore at Woodbridge Senior High School plans to attend NOVA after he graduates to pursue an associate’s degree in HVAC-R. 

“I decided to enroll in the program because I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn something that really interests me,” Sorto said. “I love doing hands-on experiments, and I can use this skill as a back-up career in life or possibly make it my main career option.”

For more information about the HVAC Dual Enrollment Program at NOVA, call 703-878-5741.


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