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 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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