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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 in Alexandria 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.

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Parents to Weigh In on Advanced Academic Shifts

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