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