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Parents and Faculty Discuss Planned Expansion of Advanced Academic Centers

Fairfax County Public Schools has asked the community for feedback on recommendations to increase the number of AAP centers in the county.

Around 75 parents and teachers attended the second of three scheduled community meetings on Wednesday night at Lee High School to discuss Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) recommendations for expanding its Advanced Academic Level IV Centers.

The meeting, which focused on schools in clusters 4 and 5, included a brief powerpoint presentation (see at right) from FCPS officials that outlined some of the explanation behind the recommendations to open a Level IV center at every middle school and create six additional Level IV elementary centers in pyramids without a center.

The recommendations also hope to address overcrowding at the three current centers at Haycock (Cluster 1, McLean pyramid), Louise Archer (Cluster 2, Madison Pyramid), and Hunters Woods elementary schools (Cluster 8, South Lakes pyramid). Additional centers are also expected to reach capacity in a few years, according to the powerpoint.

The new AAP centers could be implemented as early as fall 2013. Currently, students in grades 3 through 8 are placed into centers through a central screening process. According to a list of Frequently Asked Questions, the screening and selection process for Level IV is not expected to change and middle school centers will continue to offer Honors courses as part of the advanced academic curriculum.

Under the new assignments, eligible rising third grade elementary school students would be admitted while fourth grade students are grandfathered in and eligible rising seventh grade students at the middle school level would be admitted with seventh and eighth grade grandfathered in.

Assistant Superintendent for Communications and Community Outreach Barbara Hunter assured parents that FCPS has yet to make a decision on its plan of action until all community feedback was collected.

Some parents at the meeting expressed general concern about transportation and whether FCPS was capable of handling such a large expansion so quickly. Others felt that they did not receive enough information from the powerpoint shown or the packets to give appropriate feedback.

“This is the first I’m hearing about all of this and I have more questions than suggestions,” said one parent of a second grade student at the Rose Hill Elementary School table.

Attendees were divided into groups designated by school to allow them the opportunity to discuss the specifics of how the recommendations impact each school. School officials floated around to each of the tables to answer questions and hear comments from parents during the group discussions.

Parents and faculty at the Springfield Estates Elementary School table expressed concern over how the new centers would affect the quality of the programs offered at the school and lessen the teamwork between teachers since the information in their packet showed a decrease in the number of classes from 14 to 6. One way FCPS plans to ensure the new centers are of the same quality as existing centers in terms of faculty and facility is by using a readiness checklist.

At a nearby table, Whitman Middle School parents and faculty wondered if they would have enough students to fill their AAP center with the numbers they were given. One faculty member asked if it was possible to add the honors students to the AAP center in order to increase the numbers.

According to spokesman John Torre, FCPS received a total of 24 written submissions of feedback from parent groups at the end of the night.

The School Board will discuss the recommendations and review feedback during its Dec. 10 work session. A final decision on the topic is expected in January 2013.

Related stories:

Parents to Weigh In on Advanced Academic Shifts

cgfam November 29, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Many of us could not attend the meeting because of the late notice about it but are concerned about the changes which seem to be moving way too fast.
Sherell Williams November 29, 2012 at 02:39 PM
FCPS has much more information about the changes which you can find on their website here: http://www.fcps.edu/is/aap/centers/reorg/index.shtml Patch is also covering the final meeting tonight and will have a similar recap on those sites in clusters 1, 2, and 3. You may be able to see if someone from your PTA or another parent you know attended and can give you specifics on your school. The PDFs on the FCPS site don't go into as much detail as I noticed in the packets some of the tables had.
Michael Montante November 29, 2012 at 05:13 PM
I was at the meeting, what concerns me is that why are all the schools not held up to the same standards and all able to teach bright kids. These Level IV programs seem to be a cop out for doing the main function of a school. Teach the children to their abilitily in their home school. My child is in 1st Grade, is doing well, getting almost 100% on everything, is happy but is not challenged. We asked the teacher about it and with 27 students, the teacher has not been able to get to the enrichment circulum. She has worksheets to give to them, but not time to work with them 1 to 1. I asked my daughter and she says she mainly works by herself. Wish there was more passion in our particular school, teachers do not smile very much if at all, the front office never greets you when you go to volunteer, the gym teacher and the janitor warmly greet the kids each day, but no one form the main office is ever seen greeting and welcoming the kids. The staff/teachers do not look impassioned as a whole. Dropping off the kids hoping they have a good fun day. Though this school has a stong, strong PTA. We have another child with Speical Needs at Rose Hill, and all the teachers at that school for both the Special Needs and Mainstream as well as the Front office, always greet you and say hello and are smiling. The two school are 1 mile apart, but the attitudes are light years. We feel welcome there and know our child is going to have a good and fun day.

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