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RCA History: Education

School's almost out! But RCA History is a year-round class. So find your desk and learn about what RCA has accomplished in the area of education.

Those of you who have kids in school know that the end of the year is just around the corner.  My daughter will soon be finishing up fitth grade at , and she's working hard as the year comes to a close, studying for her SOLs and rehearsing for her year-end band concert.  (At least when she's not daydreaming about summer vacation plans.)

Watching Leslie's end-of-the-year preparations makes me think about education, and how RCA can help improve education in Reston.  And whenever I think about what RCA can do, I always start by reviewing what we have done in the past. So it's time for another trip into the RCA historical archives. 

This time, I'm spotlighting RCA's work on eduction.  As you'll see, we have led the fight for more and better educational opportunities for Restonians of all ages.  One of my goals is that in the coming months, RCA will resume its advocacy for education.  It's a subject that never goes out of style, and I believe there are a lot of opportunities here for RCA to improve Reston's quality of life.

From the very outset, RCA realized the importance of the issue, and created an Education Committee to deal with the subject.  Like a lot of infrastructure items in Reston's pioneer days, the school system was largely theoretical, and there was plenty of room for Reston citizens to shape our educational future.  The Committee took a comprehensive look at Reston's educational needs, and advanced a variety of small and large projects that helped shape the institutions we have today.

One of the smaller projects dealt with Reston's preschools.  The Education Commttee realized that there was no simple and convenient way for Restonians to research their preschool options.  So the Committee created one.  They produced a comprehensive list of the eight preschools that existed in and around Reston at the time, including information about the facilities and programs at each school.  This enabled Reston citizens to make informed choices about where to send their children.

One of the Committee's larger projects was a Reston population count.  RCA was convinced that Reston needed new elementary schools, but they knew they'd need numbers in order to convince the School Board.  So RCA performed a population count of school-age children in Reston, and provided that information to the School Board.  As a result of RCA's population counts and advocacy, and both opened ahead of schedule.  RCA was out front in making sure Reston got schools when we needed them.

A couple of early projects didn't come to fruition, but showed just how bold RCA was in its thinking.  The Education Committee produced a proposal from a leading national education consultant calling for a "comprehensive and innovative" educational plan for Reston.  (I haven't seen it, but I hope to find it some day!) 

RCA also chaired a task force that included representative from RHOA (today's RA), Gulf Reston (the developer), the School Board, and the County government, which proposed constructing Reston's high school as a joint activity center that would provide a wide range of community needs.  Nowadays, FCPS is considering co-location of schools with other commuity facilities in order to save space and make efficient use of funds.  It's a nice idea -- one that RCA considered decades ago.

As the years passed and Reston grew, RCA maintained its leading role on education.  RCA sponsored a symposium on education, with the goal of exploring what schools should deliver to their students.  And RCA continued to look at educational trends, and figured out what Reston students needed.

One of the things the students needed: more facilities.  When Reston's elementary began to get overcrowded, RCA advocated for the construction of , one of the most innovative and intriguing school facilities I've ever seen.  And when RCA realized that Reston was ready for its own intermediate and high school, the Education Committee was on the case.  They led a countywide campaign for passage of the bonds needed to construct and .  And their battle was successful; Langston Hughes and South Lakes opened in 1979 -- ahead of schedule.

The Education Committee's reach extended to higher education as well.  The Committee was successful in convincing VPI (today known as Virginia Tech) to hold extension classes in Reston.  Alas, those classes are held elsewhere today.

Today, education is as important as ever.  We want our children to be competitive in a global marketplace, and we want Reston to remain a place where families want to settle.  Therefore, the Board is looking at reviving the Education Committee to explore and propose solutions to the issues we face in Reston.

There's no shortage of issues for the committee to consider.  Instead of a few extension classes, can we bring an entire college campus to Reston?  Should we explore alternative education programs, schooling today's at-risk or disgruntled students in tomorrow's technologies and industries?  Should we push for a Reston History class to be taught in our schools, so our kids can learn more about the special community where they live?  Should we work on expanding science, technology, engineering, and math education in our schools, so that our kids are better equipped for the high-tech economy of the future?

These are just some of the many issues that the revived Education Committee may consider.  Think those are worthy goals?  Have any better ideas?  If so, leave a comment or drop me a line.  Or, better yet, volunteer to work with the committee.  There are a lot of smart people and great ideas in Reston, and I'd love to have you join us.

From its beginning, RCA has been committed to strengthening our children's education.  We're reaffirming that commitment, and we're ready to move Reston forward into the future.

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Still on the fence about running for the RCA Board?  If so, make up your mind soon; the filing deadline is June 3rd.  If you'd like to run, go here to download a candidate application.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Ken Fredgren May 25, 2012 at 12:32 AM
Thanks for this background and insight, Colin. I suggest Civics education be revived, either as stand-alone classes or integrated into existing classes, such as English, History and Language Arts. A great place to start is Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's Civics education website, www.icivics.org. She is engaged in nation-wide outreach to bring Civics back into our schools. The website includes free lesson plans. Ever since Civics was dropped from school curricula, Americans' knowledge of the workings of government - the relation of citizen to government and of government to citizen - has waned to the point that many are operating on spur-of-the moment assumptions or personal preferences rather than facts. Our founders' vision was of a country that would be based on community, not on every man or woman for himself or herself. For example, here are the closing lines of the Declaration of Independence: "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor." A courageous message of "sink or swim, we're all in this together."
Colin Mills May 25, 2012 at 03:01 AM
Ken, thanks for the comment. And great suggestion! I think more Civics education would be tremendously beneficial to our society. That would be a great cause for the Education Committee to pursue.

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