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School News and Notes

 Congressional Schools of Virginia students (left to right) Maham Sohrab,  Gilman Cuda and Aurelie Tu won the top three honors in the Annandale Rotary sponsored Four-Way Test essay contest, pictured here with Congressional’s Head of School Seth Ahlborn. (Photo: Courtesy Alyce Penn)

Fairfax County School Board Approves Big Changes

The Fairfax County School Board voted to adopt the staff recommendation of the west county boundary study at its business meeting last week. The new boundaries were set to relieve crowding at Chantilly and Westfield High Schools, balance enrollments at South Lakes High School and eliminate the Madison High School attendance island.

The changes will become effective in the 2008-09 school year and will be phased in, beginning with freshmen, during the next four school years.

“School Board and staff members spent many hours in town hall meetings and public hearings; we read e-mails, letters, and petitions to learn what the public wanted,” said School Board Chair Dan Storck. “Board members made the decision based on more than 10,000 comments by citizens. Ultimately, we made a decision that we believe is in the best interest of students at all the schools involved.”

 The approved boundaries will move students from the Fox Mill Elementary attendance area and part of the Floris Elementary attendance area, who previously would have attended Westfield High and Oakton High, to South Lakes High. Students from part of the Navy Elementary attendance area will be moved from Chantilly High to Oakton High. The Madison High attendance island was eliminated, moving students from part of the Wolftrap Elementary-Madison High attendance area to South Lakes High. A realignment of attendance areas at Thoreau Middle and Wolftrap Elementary—to relieve overcrowding, reduce time and distance traveled and match up with recommended adjustments at the high school level—was also approved.

Furthermore, the board directed Superintendent Jack D. Dale to enhance South Lakes High’s advanced academic offerings through its International Baccalaureate (IB) program and through individual IB and Advanced Placement (AP) courses, to make information available to families in the western part of Fairfax County who may want to request placement of their children in the IB Middle Years program at Hughes Middle or the IB program at South Lakes High, and to facilitate opportunities for students taking IB courses to secure AP credit by taking AP examinations in similar course content areas. Also approved by the School Board was a separate proposal to adjust the Springfield Estates and Forestdale Elementary School boundaries to relieve overcrowding at Springfield Estates.

“The School Board acknowledges that this was a difficult and emotional process for all involved,” said Storck. “We deeply understand the concerns of the community and want citizens to know that we didn’t undertake this process lightly.”

FCPS staff members solicited input from citizens on the west county boundary study beginning in November 2007 under the direction of the board and, based on these comments, also took into consideration additional objectives such as the improving commuting distances, reducing of split-feeder schools, providing an adequate enrollment buffer for South Lakes High School and to keep neighborhoods together.

 

National Scholastic Press Association Finalists

Annandale and Oakton High Schools are both making a splash nationally for their writing skills. The online edition of Annandale High School’s student newspaper, the A-Blast, has been named an online finalist in the 2008 National Scholastic Press Association’s Pacemaker contest. Erick Vu and Matt Camilli serve as editors of the online edition of the paper, with Alan Weintraut as the paper’s faculty adviser.

Oakton High’s DVD version of their school’s yearbook, Paragon, was named a finalist in the field of Interactive Media. Oakton is the first high school in Virginia to create an interactive DVD yearbook. Matt Delman is the editor of Oakton’s DVD yearbook, with Chad Rummel serving as the club’s faculty adviser. Winners will be notified soon and honored as the spring National High School Journalism convention scheduled for April 17-20 in Anaheim, Ca.

 

HS Sophomore to Serve on School Board

Arvin Ahmadi, a sophomore at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST) in Fairfax has been elected by the countywide Student Advisory Council (SAC) to serve a one-year term as student representative to the Fairfax County School Board, beginning July 1. Ahmadi will participate in School Board meetings as a non-voting member, filling the position currently held by James Rosenquist, a senior at Langley High School. Ahmadi will be the 38th student representative to the School Board.

Ahmadi currently serves as a delegate for Model United Nations and sophomore class president at TJHSST. He’s also assistant news editor for the school newspaper, tjTODAY. He pledges to make student opinions heard and “to take student involvement to another level—by opening up venues for interactive student discussion” via open forums, online discussions or other means. “This is one of those rare leadership opportunities where a teenager can actually make a difference on a large scale,” he said, saying he plans to have conversations with fellow students to identify “hot topics” and bring them to the attention of the Board.

 

Union Mill Gets Patriotic

Celebrating Freedom and Supporting the Men and Women Who Protect It, a two week long program celebrating what freedom means and providing support to the Fisher House at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, is under way at Union Mill Elementary. Fisher House is a home away from home for family members of the military who are hospitalized at Walter Reed for injury or illness. Union Mill students are creating essays, poems and artwork demonstrating what freedom means to them. Students, along with their families, are collecting donations as well for Fisher House. Speakers who will talk about freedom and the sacrifices made by members of the military to defend the U.S. will be featured on the school’s morning announcements, including family members on active duty or retired from military service, school staff members who emigrated from foreign countries and community members. The patriotic theme will be incorporated into art and music lessons during the period, and a freedom assembly is scheduled for Thursday, March 6, with guest speakers, patriotic music and a presentation to Fisher House representatives.

 

Stuart’s ‘Taste of the Town’

Stuart High School will host its 16th annual “Taste of the Town” this Sunday, March 9, from 5 to 7:30 p.m. in the school cafeteria. Sponsored by the PTSA, the event will feature tastings from over 30 local restaurants, musical entertainment by students and hundreds of items in a silent auction, including tickets to sporting events, dining gift certificates, vacation getaways and cooking classes. Tickets are available for purchase in advance or at the door. All proceeds support Stuart PTSA programs and student activities.

 

Fifth Grader Wins Her Second Spelling Bee

Brookfield Elementary fifth grade student Alina Besalel has won her second consecutive school spelling bee and advances to the county bee with runner-up Eason Recto. Belasel finished in fourth place at the 2007 county bee. A total of 43 students in grades 3-6 participated in the Brookfield bee.

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