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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.


New high school to use old floor plan after School Board motion fails


School officials will move ahead with a plan to use a 20-year-old design for the county’s newest high school.

The “13th high school” will be built somewhere in western Prince William County — either at a proffered site at the yet-to-be-approved Stonehaven development or Rollins Ford Road on a site bequeathed to the county by its former owner to be used for parkland.

The new school will cost $73.7 million and is slated to open in fall 2020. The price tag includes $4.3 million in needed improvements to the school building that make it complaint with current building codes, to include vestibules to entrances, and energy efficiency improvements to the roof and HVAC unit.

The school will hold 2,053 students. It is expected to be filled to capacity three to four years after it opens.

Unlike recently built schools like Patriot High School in Nokesvile, and the new Colgan High School to open next year on Route 234 near Independent Hill, the new building will look more like Battlefield, Freedom, Forest Park, and Hylton high schools.

The design is less expensive, and the county School Board resolved to use this design after it was criticized for approving construction of Colgan High School, one of the most costliest ever to be built in Virginia with a $111 million price tag. An aquatics facility and performing arts center are major price drivers for the school currently under construction near Independent Hill.

On November 4, the School Board was tasked with deciding whether to rescind a 2014 decision to use the older Battlefield model for all new high schools, and instead use build a hybrid model minus some of the the bells and whistles of the Patriot and Colgan models, like a smaller auditorium. The hybrid model did include space for 500 more students than the Battlefield model.

The motion to rescind the resolution, put forward by Brentsville District representative Gil Trenum and seconded by Gainesville rep Alyson Satterwhite, failed in a tie vote.

“Based on new hybrid, it would cost us $33,200 per seat… that’s a 22% cost reduction for cost per student,” Trenum.

The cost for using the more expensive model is about $42,700 per seat, he added.

Occoquan District rep Lillie Jessie argued for the smaller model and said the money could be better spent removing children from trailer classrooms at schools in eastern Prince William County and moving them into classrooms inside school buildings. School officials also said the Patriot model offers more windows for natural light.

“I have a real problem with providing more space and more lighting. There are ways to provide lighting in schools without building another model,” said Jessie. “I have 2nd graders in trailers that have no windows. I’m having a real problem with that.”

Prince William County Schools Superintendent Steven Walts said more than 4,000 new elementary school seats will be added in eastern portion of the county before the 13th high school opens, by adding on rooms to existing schools and with the construction of three new elementary schools.

“It’s not about east vs. west,” said Satterwhite, a direct comment to Jessie. “Let’s drop this east-west garbage. Let’s stop saying you can’t have this because ‘we’ve already approved the plan,’ or that ‘other children have needs.’

“I don’t usualy get mad and my blood pressuer is sky high, please think about our students,” Satterwhite added.

Neabsco District rep Lisa Bell adamantly opposed building another school based on the Patriot design, but she also encouraged the school system to rethink how its constructs its schools. With the number of available new school sites shrinking, Bell urged school staff to consider building three story buildings that take up less space than the required 80 acres needed for a new high school.

The School Board must now wait to see where the new school will be built. A proffered site at Stonehaven could come if the Prince William County Board of Supervisors approves the 1,006-home development in the Linton Hall Road corridor. 

The Board of Supervisors tabled a vote on Stonehaven last year, but School Board Chairman Milton C. Johns said a decision to approve or deny the site could come by January. The opening of the 13th high school would likely be delayed if a site is not chosen by January, he added.

Volunteers needed for Dumfries Christmas parade, tree lighting


Volunteers are needed for the Dumfries Annual Christmas Parade and Tree Lighting Ceremony on Dec. 5, 2015.

The parade will start at noon, and the tree lighting will start at 5 p.m.

Volunteers will receive a t-shirt and have the opportunity to serve the community.

Interested parties should contact Community Services Director Brittany Heine at 703-221-3400, ext 144 or by email Bheine[at]

New chairman, faces elected to Prince William School Board

Ryan Sawyers is the new Chairman of the Prince William County School Board.

The Democrat won in a three-way race between the Republican-endorsed Tim Singstock and Independent Tracy Conroy. With 37% of the vote, Sawyers beat Singstock by two percentage points, and Conroy by 10 points.

“I am thrilled with last night’s results and humbled by the support from my family and friends. Both of my opponents ran strong, passionate races and I commend them for their hard work in their campaigns. They clearly showed they care about our school system and how it impacts families.

Now the work begins. I look forward to working with our newly elected School Board and Board of County Supervisors to improve Prince William County Schools,” Sawyers posted to his Facebook page.

Singstock had the endorsement of outgoing School Board Chairman Milton C. Johns, who is stepping down from the Board. Conroy is known for her vast knowledge of the workings of the school system and had the endorsements of outgoing Neabsco District School Board representation Lisa Bell, and former School Board members Lucy Beauchamp and former Chair John-David Allen.

There will also be a big change for the Potomac District School Board seat. Newcomer Justin Wilk beat out incumbent Betty Covington, who had served on the School Board since 2003 and has spent a lifetime as an educator and principal in the Prince William County Public School System.

Republican endorsed Willie Deutsch will replace Dr. Micheal Otaigbe, who is stepping down from the Coles District seat. Deutsch won the seat over his two challengers Reggie Henderson and Bill Reeder with 41% of the vote.

With Lisa Bell stepping down from the Neabsco District School Board seat, Diane L. Raulston will take her place. Raulston won the election with 71% of the vote over challenger Joseph George.

In the race for the Occoquan seat, there was a six-point difference between winner Lillie Jessie and 2nd runner-up John Gray. The incumbent Jessie beat out two challengers to keep the seat, including Gray and Prince William County school teacher Karen Boyd.

Representatives from the Brentsville, Gainesville, and Woodbridge districts, Gil Trenum, Alyson Satterwhite, and Lorree Williams, respectively, ran opposed and will keep their seats on the Board.

More Potomac High School students take PSAT exams

Testing season rolls around every school year.

Some students loathe the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test, also known as the PSAT exam while others take the opportunity to improve their testing performance.

At Potomac Senior High School, students are taught to use the PSAT to their advantage. The primary testing date was Wednesday, October 14.

Once the PSAT results are delivered, students can identify their strengths and weaknesses. This shows us which areas to spend more time studying on. By taking the PSAT we can become familiar with the types of questions asked as well as the overall process.

This school year, Potomac introduced a change to the PSAT. Instead of just sophomores and juniors taking the exam, freshmen were tested as well. Over 1,000 Potomac Panthers were taking the exam at once.

The PSAT is scored very similar to the SAT, and can help you students predict what their possible SAT score will be, according to the Official SAT Study Guide.

The math section is scored between 160 and 760. The reading and writing sections are scored together, ranging from 160 to 760. An overall score on the PSAT’s and SAT’s is known as the composite score. On the PSAT, your composite score will range from 320 to 1520, according to the Official SAT Study Guide.

Once the PSAT results are delivered, students can identify their strengths and weaknesses. This shows us which areas to spend more time studying on. By taking the PSAT, we can become familiar with the types of questions asked as well as the overall process.

Colleges will only be able to view students SAT scores. However, if students score exceptionally well on the PSAT, the top 0.3%, colleges will begin to show interest, according to the Official SAT Study Guide. To be recognized by the National Merit Scholarship program, students need to have scored within the top 2% of test-takers in their state.

Overall, the PSAT’s are beneficial to the student if they give it their best try. The exam is taken once as a sophomore and again as junior. This gives students the chance to work with their strengths and weaknesses.

Keep in mind that a specific amount of time is given for each section of the exam. If students get stumped on one question, experts say it’s best to proceed with the rest of the section. It’s best to get down what you know rather than getting stumped with what you don’t know, experts add.

Tayah Frye is a student reporter at Potomac Senior High School in Woodbridge.


Stafford schools react after ‘insensitive’ photo surfaces on Instagram

Stafford County Public Schools has responded after a photo appeared on Instagram of two girls wearing jackets with offensive lettering.

The photo of two students wearing the jackets was taken at Mountain View High School, according to Stafford County School officials. The school division issued a statement this morning noting the photograph was investigated and that “appropriate actions have been taken.” 

“As principal of of the school, I am very sorry that this incident occurred at Mountain View. There are plans in place t educate the entire student body about this type of behavior, provide counseling if needed for any student, and to work with the entire community to ensure this type of action does not happen again,” said Mountain View High School Principal Dr. James Stemple. 

Stafford Schools Superintendent Dr. Bruce Benson asked that anyone who has shared the “insensitive” photo on social media to remove it.

The words on the students jackets also appear as lyrics in a 2013 Soulja Boy song titled “We made it.”

Will this solve the design dilemma for Prince William County’s 13th high school?

13th hybrid design

There is a compromise in the works for a the design and layout of Prince William County’s 13th high school.

School Board Chairman At-large Milton Johns delayed what was going to be a vote Wednesday night on the new school building that will be located in western Prince William, either in a new development called Stone Haven or on a site on Rollins Ford donated to the county that was to become a park.

“The more I reflected on the issue, the more I was concerned that we needed more time for the public and [School] Board members to weigh in on the matter,” Johns told Potomac Local.

The decision was a stark departure from Monday when Johns told Potomac Local a deciding vote on the matter would be made at Wednesday’s regulaly scheduled 7 p.m. School Board meeting.

The School Board has been wrangling, once agian, over what design to use when building a new high school, despite resvolving in 2014 to use a 20-year-old, modified Battlefiled High School design in all future high schools, over the newer model used for Patriot High School and the soon to open Charles Colgan High School.

The School Board took a lot of grief from residents when Colgan High School, with new aquatics and performing arts facilities included, became one of the costliest high schools every to be built in Virginia.

A new plan put on the table by school division staff is a revised hybrid model — a scaled-back version of Patriot High School.

The plan includes increasing the 2,053 student capacity at the new school by about 380 students. The capacity will be the same if either the Battlefield or original Patriot models are used.

The architecture of the hybrid building would be simpler than the original Patriot design, the roof flat, and the auditorium would hold 400 fewer people for a capacity crowd of 800.

The hybrid model savings amount to a $6.2 million savings, according to school board documents. The building would be $7.2 million more to construct than the Battlefield model.

“I think this great compromise between keepiong most beneficial features with Patriot design, also by increasing the school’s capacity,” said Johns.

Occoquan School Board member Lilly Jessie said she was still reviewing the plan and did not want to comment prior to the meeting.

The School Board meeting will go on as planned Wednesday, Oct. 21, but a vote on the high school design is not expected until the next meeting on Nov. 2. School staff urged the School Board to make a decision on a design in October to avoid delaying the 13th high school slated to open in 2020.

Video of Prince William County School Board Chairman Debate

Potomac Local sponsored a debate Monday, Oct. 12, 2015 featuring three candidates for Prince William County Public School Board Chairman. 

The candidates are Tracy Conroy, Ryan Sawyers, and Tim Singstock.

The debate was hosted by the Dar Al Noor Islamic Community Center on Hoadly Road near Dale City, Virginia. 

The video was shot and edited by Bill Golden with the Coles District Civic Association.

New app connects parents with Manassas City Schools

App screen - oct 2015

Manassas City Public Schools have a new way to communicating with parents.

The school division launched a new mobile application that is billed as an all-in-one, go-to source for information about Manassas schools. The school division states the app can be used by parents, teachers, and students.

The app inclues the following featues:

· Calendar information for schools and division events that can be integrated into personal calendars.
· Directories with contact information for various staff.
· Links and feeds to the division’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube sites.
· Access to school boundary and bus route information, as well as Food Services food menus.
· Access to the division’s Let’s Talk Feedback platform

The school division earlier this year launched a “Let’s Talk” feature that allows parents to leave about back-to-school nights, and to contact department heads in the school system. Users of the “Let’s Talk” feature may post their names or remain annoymous. Users who provide their email are guaranteed a response, according to a school division spokeswoman.

The new app is available on the school division’s website, at the Apple store, and on Google Play.

Potomac Senior High School celebrates homecoming week

Students at Potomac Senior High School’s celebrated spirit week this week.

Monday kicked off with jersey/sport day. Students were able to show their appreciation for a favorite sports team or a favorite sport. 

Tuesday left us seeing double, as staff and students were given the opportunity to twin with whomever they wanted. 

Mr. Mesterhazy twinned with Mrs. Ramos by replicating her baby bump. On Wednesday, we were able to show our school spirit by dressing “Wacky Tacky.” The hallways were flooded with an array of vibrant colors and frilly tutus. 

Thursday we were able to release our inner nerd with “Nerd Day.” Different variations of the classic “Steve Urkel” look were sprinkled throughout the school building.

Spirit week will end Friday with “Break Out the Blue” day. Each class has been assigned their own class color. Freshmen will wear white, sophomores will be wearing Columbia blue, juniors will be wearing navy, and the seniors will be wearing black royalty. 

Potomac’s official end to spirit week will be with a pep rally Friday afternoon; classes will be shortened.

Our homecoming parade will start about 5:15pm in Newport Estates. Each class and many clubs will be represented throughout the parade.

Potomac’s homecoming game will be against Mountain View High School. The game will begin about 7 p.m. Friday.. The prices of the game ticket and dance ticket were bundled into one. 

Be sure to bring your dance ticket so you will be able to get into the game.

Homecoming will be this coming Saturday, October 10. The dance will begin around 7 o’clock with it ending at 11 o’clock in the evening. This year’s theme is “Hollywood.”

Tayah Nicole is a student reporter at Potomac Senior High School in Woodbridge.

Prince William School Board at odds over new high school design, cost

The Prince William County School Board once again finds itself arguing about transparency, and how to be the best stewards of taxpayer funds.

The discussion comes nearly two years after it approved one of the costliest high schools ever to be built in Virginia.

School officials Wednesday night were tasked once again with voting on a design to be used for the county’s 13th high school to be built in western Prince William County, slated to open in 2020.

The Board voted on April 23, 2014 to build new high schools using cheaper, a 20-year-old floor plan first used in 1991 to build C.D. Hylton High School in Woodbridge, and last used in 2004 to build Battlefield High School outside Haymarket.

school prototype

School staff on Wednesday urged the governing body to rescind their vote and built a the new school based on designs used at Patriot High School, and the new Colgan High School that will open next fall.

The Battlefield model will cost $13.7 million less to construct. The Patriot model is more modern and includes more windows for natural light — something school staff said helps children learn better, according to a 1999 study cited by school division staff.

Both the Battlefield and Patriot design will accommodate 2,053 students. Classrooms in the Patriot model are 50-square feet larger than the 700-square-feet classrooms in at Battlefield High School.

“The greater square footage drives the greater cost,” said Prince William County Public Schools Associate Superintendent David Cline.

Larger open spaces to include courtyards, cafeteria, gymnasium, auditorium, hallways, and better energy efficiency are all selling points for the newer Patriot model. Cline also pointed to a series of meetings held in September where “the vast majority of about 75 citizens who spoke, the overwhelming majority indicated they liked the Patriot prototype,” said Cline.

“To get this on the on the agenda tonight, someone had to ask for it,” said Neabsco District School Board member Lisa Bell. “We did take a vote, and now were being asked to revisit it. We held two community meetings to stir up the community again.”

The school division held two public meetings last month to discuss where the 13th high school will be located. The locations include a site proffered by a housing developer that would build a the Stone Haven neighborhood in Bristow, still awaiting approval from the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, or on a site off Rollins Ford road bequeathed to the county for use as a public park.

The meetings also dredged up the topic of how the school building should be built. Schools Superintendent Steven Walts said the meetings were held in the name of transparency with the public. 

Bell, along with Coles District member Michael Otaigbe said the school design topic should not have been discussed since the Board already voted last year to use the Battlefield design.

“We voted to use the one that was less costly and the community applauded…with that and we learned our lessons, and here we are being told we should go for a higher model,” said Otaigbe.

Bell and Otaigbe opted not return to the School Board next year. Otagibe said this was the first time in his 12 years on the Board he has been asked to revisit a prior vote.

Occoquan School Board member Lillie Jessie said she cannot fathom the cost of the more expensive model when so many students in her district in eastern Prince William County attend classes outside their school buildings in trailer classrooms.

“Do wider hallways serve any instructional purposes?” asked Jessie.

The Occoquan District representative also asked school staff for a study more recent than the 1999 study cited, noting children perform better in schools with more natural light.

“Osbourn Park and Battlefield [high schools] are nationally ranked, and they don’t have glass,” she added.

The School Board is trying to avoid a repeat of the Colgan High School debate, which ignited local bloggers that denounced the division for spending too much on the school, and for including the division’s first school pool. Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart argued then that school pools are not uncommon, and that the pool was necessary to attract more affluent residents to the county

Colgan High School, located on Route 234 near Hoadly Road near eastern Prince William County, will open next fall with a price tag of $111 million — one of the most costliest ever built in the state.

Crowded schools are also a problem in the county, as many new schools are filled to the brim with students as soon as they open.

“We do need to be building larger schools with larger capacity because land is not readily available. I’m more concerned about capacity than lighting at this time,” said Potomac District School Board member Betty Covington.

School Board Chairman Milton Johns opted not to return to the School Board in 2016 after 12 years on the Board. He said overcrowding in county schools is nothing new, and that schools on the eastern side of the county dealt with severe overcrowding issues in the 1980s and 90s.

Johns supports building the Patriot model for the 13th high school.

“We pay a lot of people a lot of money to be expert professionals and advise us, and the message I’m getting is that they think [building the Battlefield model] is a big mistake,” said Johns.

The clock is ticking on the school board to decide not only what the new school will look like, but where it will be located if it will open on time in 2020. A decision on the school design must be made this month, said Cline.

Johns tabled the discussion, and a possible vote to rescind the 2014 decision to build the Battlefield model to the next School Board meeting at 7 p.m. October 21.

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