New School May Include GT Center

New School May Include GT Center

August 8, 2002

Boundary Meetings Set

The first community meeting on establishing boundaries for Andrew Chapel Elementary School is scheduled at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 9, at Langley High School. Additional meetings will be held on Nov. 18 and Dec. 4.

The new elementary school planned for the Andrew Chapel site near Route 7 at Towlston Road is being considered as a possible “Gifted and Talented (GT)” Center, said Nancy Sprague, assistant superintendent for instruction for Fairfax County Public Schools.

Superintendent of Schools Daniel Domenech and several School Board members “have urged us to look at Andrew Chapel” as the possible location for one of four new GT centers the county will establish next year, she said. “Andrew Chapel is definitely under consideration as a GT Center.”

Sprague said one of several “scenarios” for boundaries to establish Andrew Chapel’s attendance area will almost certainly include the concept of a GT Center at Andrew Chapel that would probably be filled with students from its own attendance area.

“The assumption is that the natural attendance area for that school will provide enough children who would test into the GT program, and would thrive with that curriculum,” said Dranesville School Board Representative Jane Strauss.

“It would also give us the opportunity to offer parts of the curriculum to children who would benefit,” she said.

MOST EXISTING GT Centers in Fairfax County are “magnet” schools which draw from a number of other schools, with the county providing bus transportation for those students who come from outside the “base school” attendance area.

But now, “We don’t have enough space in schools to create huge GT centers, and transportation is too costly,” said Strauss.

“We need to open centers that are closer to home. It will allow us to serve more children and decrease the transportation costs.”

Presently, children who live in Great Falls who qualify attend the GT Center at Forest Edge Elementary School in Reston, which is overcrowded.

In McLean, children who qualify attend a GT Center at either Churchill Road or Haycock Elementary.

Four new elementary schools, including the one at Andrew Chapel, are scheduled to open in 2003, and Fairfax County will also establish four new G/T centers then, Sprague said.

“The recommendation from the GT advisory committee, and from staff, is that we evaluate GT programs in the context of boundary decisions,” Strauss said.

“I have asked staff to come back with a recommendation before we begin that boundary study” [for Andrew Chapel].

“The new schools are prime candidates for obvious reasons,” Sprague said. “We can make it work [in new schools].”

BEGINNING IN third grade, children with high test scores and good work samples can elect to attend GT centers full-time, rather than their base schools.

Or they may choose a partial GT program at their base school, and leave their classrooms to attend classes for part of the day.

In October, the Fairfax Schools facilities staff will release several “scenarios,” or drafts of plans to create an attendance area for Andrew Chapel. Then, a series of public meetings will be held to allow citizens and parents to comment and tweak the plans.

The scenarios will be completed by the end of September to early October, Sprague said.

The first community meeting on boundaries for Andrew Chapel is scheduled at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 9. Additional meetings will be held on Nov. 18, and Dec. 4, said Deana Sharrocks of the Facilities Planning Services of the Public Schools’ Facilities Planning Services.

The meetings will be held at Langley High School, 6520 Georgetown Pike in McLean, with Cooper Middle School is the alternate location.

It is expected that after parents and community members tweak the scenarios, consensus will build around one of them over a period of weeks.

Andrew Chapel is being built to relieve overcrowding at Spring Hill, Forestville and Great Falls Elementary Schools, and to return some Great Falls students now attending Westbriar Elementary to a school that is closer to their homes.