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Coming Up: Community Meetings About Advanced Academics

FCPS to Hold Community Meetings About Advanced Academic Program Expansion

FCPS will hold public meetings the week after Thanksgiving to discuss proposals to expand advanced academic programs - programs for students who are ready for challenges beyond grade-level expectations. 

The purpose of expanding the advanced academic center program is to broaden access to challenging curriculum throughout the county and to alleviate over-crowding at some existing centers.  The goal of the community meetings is to present the analysis and recommendations of FCPS staff and give community members a chance to respond with their questions, concerns and ideas. 

A little background: An internal FCPS task force has recommended that the school system expand advanced academic programs to all middle schools and to at least one elementary center program per high school pyramid.  Currently, not all middle schools offer advanced academic programs, and elementary advanced academic centers, which draw students from nearby schools, are not available in every high school pyramid.  The goal of expansion is to make access to advanced curriculum greater in some communities than it is now.  

The task force is also recommending reassignment of some advanced academic center students at three over-crowded elementary centers:  Louise Archer, Haycock and Hunters Woods. 

The center programs at those schools have grown significantly in recent years, putting strains on space and resources.  The proposals to move students from those schools to other centers - new or existing - will take into consideration how much to “grandfather” students who are already at the existing centers, neighborhood proximity and the alignment of elementary students within the high school pyramids they will attend.  

Needless to say, these changes are causing some worry among parents and school-based educators.  My hope is that we can take as much time as necessary to process feedback and make sure everyone is as comfortable with the final plan as possible. 

The overcrowding at Louise Archer, Haycock and Hunters Woods must be addressed by the start of the next school year, in my opinion.  So the details of those changes - where students will be transferred and which students will be grandfathered - must be finalized by the end of January.  It’s my belief that we will need more than one community meeting between then and now, to answer all questions and provide thoughtful feedback.

As for the expansion of advanced academic programs to all middle schools, it seems that the response to that proposal will be different in different communities.  Some programs may be ready to open next fall, but others may take more time.  We will know more after the communities have had a sufficient chance to weigh in.

Go to http://www.fcps.edu/is/aap/centers/reorg/index.shtml for more information.

The schedule for the community meetings is:

Tuesday, November 27, in the Westfield High School cafeteria for Clusters 6, 7, and 8.

Wednesday, November 28, in the Lee High School cafeteria for Clusters 4 and 5.

Thursday, November 29, in the Kilmer Middle School cafeteria for Clusters 1, 2, and 3.       

I will attend the Tuesday and Thursday meetings.  If you are not sure which cluster you’re in, please ask in the comments and I’ll help you find out.  These meetings  will cover a lot of ground, which is why I fully expect there to be follow-up meetings.  I look forward to the discussion!

Pat Hynes

Vice Chair and Hunter Mill Representative to the Fairfax County School Board

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.

Pat Hynes November 18, 2012 at 08:05 PM
I just want to be clear that one option is to not reassign any currently assigned students at the three advanced academic centers, but rather to grandfather all current students and begin the changes with only rising third graders. That would be my preferred option, as long as we can still give some meaningful relief to the overcrowded schools. It is difficult for most young children to transition once during elementary school and I understand the concerns about asking children to do so twice. As I reread my post, I realized I hadn't made that clear. Our goal always is to do what's best for kids.
Mary Ellen van Hout November 19, 2012 at 01:56 AM
which meeting would be for Hunters Woods Students?
Pat Hynes November 19, 2012 at 02:01 AM
Mary Ellen, the Hunters Woods discussion will be on Tuesday night at Westfield HS.
Sara Roades November 19, 2012 at 12:20 PM
As a Louise Archer parent, I agree that LA needs overcrowding relief, but yes, please please "grandfather" the current AAP students.
Karen November 19, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Is this also the case for current 6th grade students that would be rising 7th grade students for the start of the 2013-2014 school year? Would this year's 6th graders go to their currently assigned AAP Center for middle school or would they go to the "new" AAP Centers at each middle school?
Kate Van Dyck November 19, 2012 at 11:35 PM
​ I will certainly attend the meeting for our area schools in Cluster 4 in the hopes of being informed about what exactly is involved in expanding the Advanced Academic Center programs to offer equitable access and relieve over-crowding. What are the increased costs associated? Will FCPS ensure that teachers in the expanded centers as well as teachers even in the current centers are GT certified teachers? How will the funds for creating more centers be found during all our budgeting shortages? Maybe with the so-called savings made by rushing into online textbooks, without community or teacher input, without taking the time to train teachers in their use, or to solve the many other weaknesses of the purchased ($7.7 million) online books found too little/too late? FCPS has been making a growing number of admin/staff based decisions, without much consultation with our own School Board, teachers on the front lines or the parent/community component. Some of these have been giant mistakes as they have had a negative impact on a huge number of our children. Let's make sure the input is gathered BEFORE the decisions are made!
Pat Hynes November 20, 2012 at 05:41 AM
Karen, I do not know how the grandfathering conversation will turn out regarding middle schools. I imagine the hope would be to start the new centers with entering seventh graders. I think opening middle school centers only to let 7th grade students go elsewhere would be counter-productive, but I am willing to listen to other points of view on that.
Pat Hynes November 20, 2012 at 05:47 AM
Kate, we haven't gotten cost figures yet, but we have asked for that. The sense of the board is, as you say, that the school system has been moving too fast lately, burdening teachers and families with too many challenging new initiatives at once. The board and FCPS staff are slowing down the AAP expansion roll-out, in response to that concern, with the exception of the three over-crowded elementary centers, which do need relief. We need more time to consult with the community and with school-based staff, to make sure any changes accomplish what we set out to do and are manageable. I hope you find the meeting informative.
Mozart November 21, 2012 at 11:29 PM
If you grandfather, do you still provide transportation to those students or do you require the parents to arrange for transportation if they want to avail of that option? Otherwise, do we end up busing elementary school students in some neighborhoods to three different schools? It's unfortunate to have to change school assignments, but don't we have to watch the transportation budget?
Pat Hynes November 21, 2012 at 11:43 PM
Mozart, we would continue to provide transportation as we do now. There would be costs associated, but I think we have to wait until the dust settles a little to know whether there is an overall cost increase. We may realize transportation savings from other aspects of the AAP proposal, such as providing advanced academic programs at all middle schools, reducing the need to transport students to distant center programs. We will have to keep an eye on costs, certainly.
Beverly Jurenko November 27, 2012 at 01:29 PM
I do not understand how having three two-hour meetings, grouping clusters together and addressing the elementary school and middle school AAP plans at the same time, could possibly equate to real community involvement. Please slow down, FCPS! There is no need to rush an AAP middle school center reorganization. More centers does not mean better centers. Let's think this through and make sure that all middle school AAP kids are treated equally. Eliminating the AAP level of instruction in middle schools without 'critical mass' is not fair to kids who can't stay at centers that offer distinct AAP classes. The curriculum may be the same on paper, but the delivery, in most classrooms, will likely be very different. That's not equity.
Pat Hynes November 27, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Beverly, I do not expect this week's meetings to be the beginning and end of the conversation. On the contrary, I think they will introduce FCPS staff's thinking, with some straw man proposals and a chance for community members to ask questions and suggest alternatives. This week's meetings will break up by clusters after a general overview. I am certain there will be more meetings to discuss the issues in smaller groups. As for the wisdom of creating AAP programs in every middle school, the school board is not in a hurry to make that happen. There are good arguments for and against. It may make more sense in some parts of the county than in others. We will have those conversations before we make any decisions. I hope to see you Thursday. Pat Hynes
Mary Ellen van Hout November 30, 2012 at 10:30 PM
Pat, What would happen to my child who is at Hunters Woods in second Grade through the magnet program and could test into the AAP program? If he is accepted into the AAP Level 4 program would they make him return to Crossfield or allow him to stay at Hunters Woods with his brother who is in 3rd grade right now, but not in AP. My 3rd grader may also move into the AAP program in 4th grade. Because he is at Hunters Woods also in the Magnet program would he be grandfathered in because his is going from 3rd to 4th or will he also be forced back to Crossfield?
Pat Hynes November 30, 2012 at 11:07 PM
Mary Ellen, my understanding is that all current AAP center students will be grandfathered - allowed to remain in the center where they are through 6th grade. That is acceptable to the Hunters Woods community and is what most AAP parents seem to prefer. That is what I would support. Because Hunters Woods also has the arts and science magnet program, there is a wrinkle, which you've articulated. I will check with the administrators to see what the thinking is about that and get back to you. I assume the preference of parents would be to keep their children at Hunters Woods. Is that what you would like to see?

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