On Monday and Tuesday, Feb. 10 and 11, Fairfax County's School Board will host public hearings regarding the creation of several gifted and talented (GT) centers across the county. One proposed center at Mosby Woods Elementary would affect incoming GT students from Marshall Road, Daniels Run, Providence and Fairfax Villa elementary schools.
The School Board proposed creating a GT center at Mosby Woods to relieve overcrowding at the GT centers at Vienna's Louise Archer Elementary and Fairfax's Mantua and Willow Springs elementary schools. If the School Board approves the recommendations, Mosby Woods would welcome incoming third graders into its GT center starting in fall 2003. Current GT students would remain at their respective centers and not move to Mosby Woods.
School officials proposed to create a GT center to beef up Mosby Woods' student population, as well as relieve overcrowding at nearby GT centers. They also chose Mosby Woods because of its location. The school lies in a quiet residential neighborhood off of Blake Lane and just south of Route 66.
"Mosby Woods is pretty centrally-located between Louise Archer, Mantua, and Willow Springs," said Gary Chevelier, director of facilities planning for Fairfax County Public Schools.
The GT centers that currently host some students from Vienna and Fairfax are already full. According to Willow Springs Elementary principal Sandra Culmer, Willow Springs hosts three GT classes for the third and fifth grade levels, versus the two GT classes average at other GT centers.
The Willow Springs GT center currently receives children from Daniels Run, Providence and Fairfax Villa elementary schools.
"What we're trying to do is spread the population around," said Paul Regnier, coordinator of community relations for Fairfax County Public Schools. "You can't leave schools under-populated."
Yet the decision to create a GT center at Mosby Woods has not been without controversy or modification. The original plan included GT students from Oakton Elementary, located less than two miles north of Mosby Woods on Chain Bridge Road. Parents protested, arguing that sending GT students to Mosby Woods would split the Oakton student population into two. Oakton students currently attend the GT center at Sunrise Valley.
School officials later decided to keep Oakton students where they were.
THE ORIGINAL PLAN also called for the creation of a GT center at Providence Elementary. School officials withdrew that plan earlier in fall 2002, after several parents raised concerns about potential overcrowding at Providence.
The final draft of the plan draws students from both Vienna and Fairfax and will grandfather incoming GT students. Starting with the third grade, new GT students will go to Mosby Woods, while current students will remain at their respective centers. To compensate for student growth at Mosby Woods, the School Board approved a 10-room addition for the school in its Capital Improvement Program. Funding for the addition and other CIP projects will be included in a November 2003 bond referendum.
A GT center at Mosby Woods "allows more room for the program to grow," Chevalier said.
While the latest plan is a welcome change to some parents, it's not for others.
"I think it's great. It'll probably be easier in terms of socializing," said Laura Welke, Providence Elementary's PTA president. Welke thought that the Mosby Woods' GT center would benefit both Fairfax students, who currently travel across town to Willow Springs, and Mosby Woods students. "Willow Springs is farther away."
Parents of would-be GT students at Marshall Road Elementary were not so enthusiastic. According to notes from town meetings held in November and December and published on the Fairfax County Public Schools Web site, the two major concerns were an increased transportation time and lack of being part of the Vienna community. Current GT students attend the Louise Archer's GT program.
"Any time you talk about change ... there's always a concern about what might be available," Chevalier said.
To alleviate some concerns, Mosby Woods principal Laura Shibles hosted a meeting for parents on Jan. 8. The meeting included a tour of the school and a discussion about Mosby Woods' vision for the center.
"It's exciting. People [will] bring experiences from those other schools that will broaden our perspective and enrich us," Shibles said, on how a GT center would benefit Mosby Woods.