On Monday, October 7, the TJ Tigers will hold a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for newly-renovated Thomas Jefferson Elementary School. This is a public event, and all of Falls Church is invited to attend! Use the Seaton Lane entrance.
5:00 – 6:00 p.m. Self-guided and student-led tours
6:15 p.m. Ribbon Cutting Ceremony
7:00 – 8:00 p.m. Self-guided and student-led tours
By FALLS CHURCH TIMES STAFF
September 10, 2012
FCT: FCCPS is purchasing new computer technology for students. Can you tell us exactly what will be purchased? Laptops? iPads? How many?
Jones: 700 laptops (Macbook Air) , 500 iPads
FCT: What will they cost?
Jones: Right now, until the equipment arrives we have not experienced any cost. However, we are working with an equipment total value of $700,000 – either paid in full this year if the city surplus comes through- or $200,000 from our current technology budget with the balance being paid through lease.
FCT: Will they be used equally across grades?
Jones: Yes. Every school building will benefit from this new equipment.
FCT: Why do our students need this new technology?
Jones: There are countless reasons why technology is a critical investment for our children and schools. But most importantly, it’s the world that our children live in right now. The highest volume of apps available at the Apple Store are actually books. Children love books that can talk to them and help them read a word when they get stuck. Children can read a fictional story about a dinosaur, and then out of sheer curiosity, click on the link to read factual information about a T-Rex or a Stegosaurus. Information is at their fingertips. In the upper grades, technology greatly enhances their research capabilities. It doesn’t mean they need to be on the computer all the time. It does mean that when they are engaged in an activity that can be enhanced by technology we shouldn’t be afraid to embrace it. Student engagement, without question, has been proven to be heightened when technology is infused at school. We want children to learn, and we want them to love school.
This is a sample clip from a large school district who started with machines, and then after 3 years moved to “bring your own device.” It has some good informational points and they have documented how student engagement has increased at all levels. This is just an example.
This is a clip that is primarily focused on how technology can enhance instruction for special education.
This is a clip about the iPad and textbooks.
This is a clip from a few of our teachers who were working with our summer school this year.
FCT: What’s the useful life of this technology before it needs to be upgraded to a newer version?
Jones: That’s a challenging question, in that the life of a machine is actually quite long. The point at which a school- or individual- upgrades their machine depends on what they want to do with the machine. The average lifespan to upgrade is 3-5 years for laptops, but that is not the lifespan of the machine. We have some laptops that are 8-10 years old right now. While they can’t be used to create video and run other instructional programs, we have kept them for web only SOL Virginia mandated testing. In fact, they have been a lifesaver in terms of getting us through testing. For that purpose, they are excellent. Our goal is to reinstate a strong replacement cycle which was reduced during the last three budget cycles. This will make purchasing more manageable during the annual budget.
On another note, the laptops that we are purchasing are new on the market and were just released with the newest version about 6 weeks ago.
FCT: Does the purchase price include service and maintenance?
Jones: Yes, It’s a typical warranty like we purchase with every machine in the division, and have done so for many years.
FCT: What’s your view of how student IT needs will evolve over the next few years. For example, in five years do you think our students will still be using basically the same kind of laptops and tablet computers they use now, or will they be operating off a cloud infrastructure, or what?
Jones: We are already operating within the cloud. Our learning management system, Google apps, and other teaching and learning tools are cloud based. In fact, almost everything for education is moving in that direction. We have also utilized Virtual technology to repurpose older desktop machines. Utilizing Virtual technology can take an old machine and make it run like a brand new one. We began that process last year so that we could extend the life of our machines for those web based only programs.
There are some great clips from Intel Corporation and other companies that demonstrate the “future” of education. Below are two links that you may find interesting.
A clip from Intel showing technology in the future (in general…not specific to schools).
Another clip from Intel showing a project from start to finish utilizing a future focused vision of what we can do.
FCT: Where will the new computers be located? Will they remain at school or come home with students?
Jones: The computers are housed at each individual school site. For the most part, the computers will stay at school because we are not purchasing enough computers to have one for every child.
FCT: Can you talk to us about how FCCPS makes technology decisions? Is there a staff technology person who designs our approach? Or a group? Do we pay an outside consultant? Are any parents involved in the process?
Jones: We have a large Technology Innovation Team who are highly proficient in technology, understand the educational needs, and are familiar with our system. We have 3 very highly skilled technicians- a Director, and 2 systems engineers. We have a communications specialist who helps us with aspects such as Google Apps and the web. We also have technology assistants at every building, as well as an instructional technology team which is lead by our Curriculum Instructional Resource Teacher who is based at GM. We come together as one large group so that instructional and infrastructure needs are considered in tandem. Our instructional leader is also one of our parents in the division. In addition, if needed we contract with a few companies who deal almost solely with schools and are highly skilled with complex networking issues. One of the great aspects of working with Apple is they provide free professional development, and with our purchase they provide an implementation specialist who will be onsite with us (here at FCCPS) as we image our new machines and launch out the products for our schools. We have an outstanding team of individuals who work to stay on the cutting edge and watch what is taking place around the country, and around the world.
FCT: We understand that FCCPS and Falls Church City government do not use a common IT approach or platform. Do you expect more commonality over time, or are the functions of the two organizations just too different to gain efficiencies of scale?
Jones: We actually work very well together, but our clients, services, and needs are vastly different. Our Director of Technology works with the Falls Church City Director of Technology to see how we can coordinate and share ideas and services. For instance, our phone systems are tightly coordinated. We also work on infrastructure pieces together and when we can coordinate we do. We also share software when we can, such as our financial system. Our IT departments have a great working relationship. However, what we need for a 10 year old and what they need for a court system are not the same. Our infrastructure is designed for a school, and that’s very different than a business or government agency. We have been able to hire and retain technology specialists’ who are accustomed to the needs of schools. Our technology use is not just staff, but every person who is our client (our students) must access technology on a daily basis. We have approximately 2,600 daily users who need to access our system with staff and students from within our organization. Each group of people also need varying degrees of filtering and access rights. Our children have a filtering system that must be incredibly tight.
FCT: What level of bandwidth is available within FCCPS?
Jones: We have 30 megabits per second going out, and 50 megabits per second coming in. Right now, it is the maximum that Verizon can provide. They are at their maximum. We are actually requesting that they upgrade so that we can increase.
FCT: As you know, funding for the new computers has been controversial. The School Board requested $500,000 from the City’s current budget surplus for the purchase of the technology, and there has been a lengthy debate about that within the City Council. However, you were able to proceed with the purchase before the City Council approved the request. How were you able to do that?
Jones: It’s important to note up front that the school has $200,000 in our current budget for technology, and that is what we are actually spending. That’s why we don’t need City Council to approve the purchase. What is different about this option, is that we are leasing. Our leadership team began discussing this approach early last year when we knew it was another tight budget season, and technology was on our unfunded needs list presented in the budget. The lease concept has been around for years, and it has helped schools all across America stay current and progressive with technology. While it’s not our first choice, it is a great option.
FCT: There is a school of thought that says young people are becoming too dependent upon computers and smart phones, and would be better served spending more time with books – the paper kind. What do you say to those who make this argument?
Jones: Personally, I am not sure that it matters if a child reads on a Kindle, an iPad, or reads a paper book. I believe the goal is to get a child to love reading. Children are motivated by technology, and if an iPad visual can help a child find a love for reading, then I hope that we will continue to embrace it. The world is changing, and while we need to be wise about how we use technology with children, we can’t deny that it’s here. Smart phones are no longer just phones. Just eight years ago a child had a calculator, an iPod, a computer, a book, and a phone. These were five separate items that were found in their backpacks. Were they less dependent on the items because they were separate? From watching children in schools, I would say no. The child who loved reading snuck the book under his desk in the middle of Algebra class. The child who loved music had an iPod hanging out of their pocket every minute it was allowed. Now, it’s one device. The key is, what are they doing on that device. Perhaps, they are actually reading an article about the environment or searching for colleges they want to attend. It’s not the technology, it is what they do with the technology that counts.
FCT: Thanks very much for taking time to provide this information and share your thoughts.
By AMY TROMBO
April 14, 2012
Odyssey of the Mind (OM) is an international organization with regional, state, and international competitions focusing on the ability to solve problems creatively while working as part of a team. The purpose of OM is to encourage children to use their higher level thinking skills to solve interesting and challenging problems.
OM teams are composed of 5-7 members. Each team is assigned one of six long-term problems. These problems change each year. This year teams might have been required to build a vehicle capable of displaying emotions, present an original performance about a team of scientists on a mysterious expedition, craft a balsa wood structure designed to hold weight, create a short musical built around the theme of “To Be or Not To Be”, perform a skit involving angels capable of changing negative situations into positive situations, or build a device that could uncover surprise objects from remote distances.
In additional to completing the assigned long-term problem, teams must prepare to face a “Spontaneous” problem on the day of competition. The teams, without benefit of support from parents, friends, or coaches, enter a room and are given a new problem to solve, on the spot, in front of a team of judges.
On March 31st, 17 teams representing the Falls Church City Public Schools participated in the regional competition at West Potomac High School competing alongside 150 other teams with great success.
Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School brought home two third place finishes, and Thomas Jefferson Elementary earned two 6th place finishes, two 5th place finishes, a 2nd place finish, and a 1st place finish.
The first place team of third graders dubbed themselves the “Loch Ness Monsters”. James Trombo, Kurt Barth, Felix Barth, Daniel Trauberman, Parrish Pipestem, and Colson Board will be moving on to the state finals in Newport News this weekend. What follows is one of their coach’s reflections on her OM experience this year…
Last year, my son James, Valerie Barth’s twins Kurt and Felix, and Daniel were on an Odyssey of the Mind Primary Problem team. The team was coached by my husband, Joe Trombo, and John Krotzer; Valerie sat in on most meetings. This year, John relocated to the Far East for work, and my husband felt unable to contribute the time needed. Valerie and I decided we wanted to keep the boys together and we would coach the team. Parrish had previously been on a team coached by his mother, and Colson was interested in giving Odyssey of the Mind a try, though unsure whether he wanted to perform.
Before our first meeting, the boys knew they wanted to solve the ride-on vehicle problem entitled “Ooh-Motional Vehicle”. By the third meeting, they had lots of drawings of Volvo-looking cars, and the green idea to power one geo-thermally.
Then in late December they toured my backyard and basement, which had sadly become a graveyard for two bicycles, two tricycles, a few scooters, a Big-Wheel, and many other toys. Within 5 minutes, the boys had found and decided to use my garbage can. This was a garbage can that had been under my deck for some eight years, it was lid-less, cracked and leaked, mildewed and rather ratty, but the boys insisted. Valerie and I looked at each other, raised our eyebrows, and took a few deep breaths. My mantra soon became, “It will be okay.”
A few seconds more, and the boys had found the top of a Little Tykes sandbox. This turtle sandbox had passed from my husband’s cousin through his aunt (who used it for composting) and through both my children. Thus, a Turtle was born!
Over the course of several more meetings, the boys established a set of 6 rules: Safety First (nobody gets hurt too badly), Try Your Best, Pay Attention, Be Respectful, Must Have Snack, and Have Fun. They also read the problem over and over, and knew the vehicle had to travel a pre-determined course with three stops, move forward and backward using two different propulsion systems or power sources, display 4 different emotions and be a character in a play.
We had a safety meeting on the use of tools and power tools, a meeting on batteries and simple circuits, and a meeting to play with springs, bungee cords and all kinds of joining materials. But, still, they hadn’t written the play. One afternoon, Valerie sent her Kurt and Felix into their room and told them to write a story about a turtle with three things happening to it. What emerged was entitled “The Space Turtle and the Attack of the Mars Martians.” Soon thereafter, Felix knew he wanted to be the driver and everyone else wanted to be a Mars Martian. James was chosen to be the narrator, and Parrish agreed to be the President.
It’s hard to say just which boy came up with what idea, though each can tell you his contribution, and another will cut in to tell you how he heard the idea and improved it. Ideas came fast and wild, bouncing around like lottery balls, and somehow landed in a sweet combination. But the boys each unwittingly stepped into a unique role as team-mate. Parrish kept the team on task, and became the order-keeper, encouraged everyone to pay attention, and could quickly take a vote or decide to flip a coin to make a decision. Daniel listened to everyone, took all the ideas in and processed them, then returned reshaped ideas with precise and often comedic timing. Colson was the planning and process guy, he thought through a problem and placed each step in order of when it needed to be done, then did it. James charged in with grand ideas and the enthusiasm to get it done now. Kurt saw problems and opportunities for improvement and never stopped thinking about the project. Felix found the middle ground between Kurt and James, and truly steered not only the vehicle but also the team.
Of course, Falls Church parents are the greatest, but the parents of our team truly went beyond what should be asked of any parent. They provided enthusiasm, encouraged everyone to have fun, believed in their sons and the team, provided tons of popcorn and Capri-sun, accepted that their 9 year olds would be using power tools, and reorganized their schedules to accommodate a meeting schedule that progressed from weekly, to twice weekly, to three times a week through much of February and all of March.
Regional Competition day was March 31st, and everyone arrived at West Potomac High School early. The self-styled Loch Ness Monsters’ performance was the second of the day, and started about 9:15am. The boys clamored to tell the staging judge all about their gun, their grenade, their fireworks, and their exploding rocks, but I was able to assure him that they would not need to call the fire department again, as everything was actually an artistic interpretation of the prohibited items!
Through a small miscommunication, the vehicle went to stage left instead of stage right as was planned. This meant that props on both sides of the stage were in the wrong place. The team noticed, and in an amazing display of teamwork, managed to reset the entire stage into a mirror image and adjust their stage entries accordingly, all as the performance continued. The correction was so seamless, even the parents who had seen the play 4 times in rehearsal did not notice what had happened. The coaches were wrecks!
Later in the morning, while waiting to solve the Spontaneous problem, I asked the boys which one of their six rules they followed the most and which they followed the least. The unanimous response was they had fun the most, and paid attention the least. Of course, that response made my day and term as coach perfect.
When the scores were tallied, Thomas Jefferson Team A placed first in their problem and division at the tournament. The division contained 10 teams, with 2nd through 5th graders competing. Yet, the six third-grade boys did what they said they would do… “we’re in it to win it” was established in December, and that they did. But one day, they will realize that they also won in many other and more important ways, just as every other participant in Odyssey of the Mind also won. In an era in which everything comes internet-quick and is often a solitary pursuit, they learned to work together as a team to solve a problem over four months.
The problem was complex; there were many decisions they had to make, and many little problems to solve along the way. There was a lot of creative thinking, interpretation and re-interpretation of instructions and rules, and many long hours of construction and crafting.
There were sacrifices, too. Every team member had to compromise with one another, one boy missed the first 4 baseball practices and another ate a sandwich dinner in the car every Friday evening en route from soccer to Odyssey of the Mind meetings. When polled, the guys all say they want to win at the State Tournament and will definitely be in Odyssey of the Mind next year. (But the chatter right now is more about the indoor pool and water guns at the hotel and the potential trip to Busch Gardens.)
Besides the team, team parents and coaches, there are many others to thank for our opportunity to participate and our success in Odyssey of the Mind. Thomas Jefferson Elementary School purchased several memberships to sponsor multiple teams, and also paid the registration fees for all teams in both the Regional and State Tournaments.
Additionally, Mr. Bob Palermo, TJ’s principal, Ms. Mary Kay Howard, TJ’s assistant principal, Ms. Lisa Allan, fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Jennie Ehrenzller, librarian, and Mrs. Pattie Smith, second grade teacher volunteered the first Saturday of their Spring Break in order to staff the regional meet. Ms. Heidi Lang and Ms. Beth Green coordinated the teams, distributed information and paperwork, and located space for rehearsals.
And perhaps most significantly, the classroom teachers at both Mt. Daniel and Thomas Jefferson, in the course of their normal duties, have laid the educational foundation, spirit and ethic of hard work, teamwork, cooperation, attention to detail, art, creativity, stage performance and much more which allowed the boys to come the team with a full toolkit. You’re the best!
Please wish the Loch Ness Monsters luck as they compete at the Virginia State Odyssey of the Mind Tournament on April 14th in Newport News, VA.
Editor’s Note: Some 150 FCCPS students from Thomas Jefferson Elementary and Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School participated in the Odyssey of the Mind competition. The teams and individuals are listed below. Congratulations to all the FCCPS participants and their coaches on this very worthy endeavor.
By GEORGE BROMLEY
Falls Church Times Staff
May 17, 2011
Planning commissioners and City Council members were not impressed with the latest design for the proposed Hilton Garden Inn (706 W. Broad St.), which was presented at last night’s joint work session.
Officials felt more brickwork was needed and that the overall design inappropriate for a city as old as Falls Church. ”I don’t think you could have built this down in Fredericksburg,” said a disappointed Lindy Hockenberry.
Commission chair Melissa Teates called the facade ”unacceptable, especially on Broad Street.” ”I’m not happy with the [building's] sides but can live with it; the front has to look different,” she said. “I don’t think it meets our design guidelines.” Mayor Nader Baroukh concurred, stating that he thought the design needed a significant amount of work.
As now proposed, the hotel will offer 110 rooms and 121 parking spaces. It is expected to generate $540,000 in tax revenue. A two story office building on Park Avenue, which was not part of the original 2008 proposal, has been dropped.
City Manager Wyatt Shields said he hoped the project will be submitted for first reading on June 13. If a special exception amendment and rezoning are approved by the Council, the project would be referred to boards and commissions for review and returned for second reading on July 25.
The Council and the Planning Commission also reviewed a request by owners of first floor space at The Byron (513 W. Broad St.) to allow professional and office use for space designated for retail. The area involved is on the far right side of the structure and has never been occupied since the building opened in 2006.
Retailers have considered the space unattractive because it is far removed from the building’s non-resident parking spaces and has a narrow front. The parking problem cannot be corrected as residents have assigned spaces, while the commercial and retail spaces are shared.
The mayor asked the applicant’s attorney to furnish information on the efforts to market the space and whether the owner would consider joining it with the adjacent space, previously occupied by Verizon. Mr. Shields said that the matter may be ready for Council action next Monday, assuming a prompt response to the mayor’s request.
The joint work session concluded with a discussion of a homeowner’s request that the City vacate 1,638 square feet of unimproved space at the end of Park Place near the State Theater. Mr. Shields recommended the Council approve the vacation, however Mr. Baroukh expressed some reservations, given that the City might build a parking facility near the location. Planning Director Jim Snyder said that his staff would review the matter.
CDC Future - The Council then was briefed on the status of the Child Development Center (201 S. Cherry St.). The building, which was built by private funds, has been leased to Easter Seals for nearly 50 years. The current 25 year, dollar-a-year lease is expiring in November, but the leasee would prefer an extension until at least the summer of 2013 so it could secure another facility. Easter Seals would be willing to pay $50,000 annually for the space.
City Schools have asked to assume control of the property in July 2012 in order to house the preschool education programs currently located at Mt. Daniel. This option also would free space to permit the relocation of the Falls Church Community Center preschool program. Other options include leasing the facility to another day care provider or another commercial user, selling the property for residentinal use, or converting the space to City government offices.
School Superintendent Lois Berlin told the Council that waiting an additional year to acquire the property would result in “underserving” of students. Pre schoolers now are receiving three hours of classes instead of the more desirable five. She said that two trailers at Mt. Daniel are used for half day pre school, but that an additional class was needed due to the increase in special needs students.
Vice Mayor Dave Snyder called for more analysis of the options, including possibly combining government and school use. “A dollar a year is history” he said, stressing the need to obtain the maximum value of the property for taxpayers.
Mayor Baroukh asked Mr. Shields for an updated staff report on the issue, ideally by next Monday. School Board member Kieran Sharpe advised that the Board also would discuss the question at Tuesday’s meeting and submit input.
TJ Renovation Status - Mr. Sharpe and Dr. Berlin advised the Council that there will be a public forum on the renovation at the school on May 26 at 7:00 pm. Ceremonial groundbreaking will be held on June 13 at 9:30 am. The School’s Architecture Selection Advisory Committee will begin to review the RFP and design.
3rd Quarter Financial Report - CFO Richard La Condre reported that the City revenues were at or higher than budgeted and that expenditures are running at or close to budget. He advised that the projected fund balance would be $4.9 million at the end of the fiscal year, an increase of a little over $900,000.
Economic Development Incentive Policies - A draft resolution has been prepared for referral to City boards and commissions for comments. Final Council action will occur in June.
Closed Session - The work session concluded shortly before 10:00 pm. The members then withdrew for another conference on the water refunds case.
Video of the public meeting is available at the City website.
SPECIAL TO THE FALLS CHURCH TIMES
May 12, 2011
A crowd of more than 200 school supporters showed their support for the Falls Church City Public Schools through generous contributions at this year’s Gala on May 6th. A variety of events at the Gala engaged the crowd–from placing competing bids for exciting silent auction items, including an opportunity to be serenaded with an Italian opera ballad sung by GMHS student, Anne Briggs, to an academic duel against the State Championship George Mason High School Scholastic Bowl team, to a Live Auction which raised funds for several new school initiatives. In total, the Gala raised more than $90,000 and was the most successful fundraiser for the Foundation since its inception in 2003.
David Chavern, former Falls Church City Council member and the foundation president, said “Money raised by the foundation pays for items not funded by the school budget, allocations like teacher travel and advanced classroom technology, and the explosive-proof freezer for a George Mason science lab.” Mr. Chavern also announced that the Woman’s Club of Falls Church will transfer their sizable scholarship fund to the Foundation to continue stewardship of this award which provides two scholarships of $2,000 to two graduating seniors who have demonstrated exemplary achievement in community service and academics.
Proceeds from this year’s Gala will support teacher grants in all four schools, new technology to support student learning (link to video), classroom libraries at Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School, and the Pathway to the Baccalaureate program for junior and senior students at George Mason High School to facilitate their transition to state higher education colleges and universities.
The FCEF is engaged in a campaign to build a $10 million permanent Endowment Fund to help ensure that our students are prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century. For more information on the Foundation and how you can help sustain our community’s commitment to strong support for public education, contact Executive Director Donna Englander at (703) 538-3381.
The cast of Creative Cauldron’s production of “The Selfish Giant” includes four Falls Church City Schools students so it’s fitting that the Sunday, March 20 matinee performance is a fundraiser for the Falls Church Elementary PTA (FCEPTA). For every ticket sold, Creative Cauldron will donate $5.00 to the FCEPTA.
Three of the City’s schools are represented in the cast: brothers Charlie and Coulter Adams are Thomas Jefferson Elementary School students, Mena Haimelarian is a Mt. Daniel student and her sister Hermela attends Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School. Helen Hayes Award-winning actor, Stephen Gregory Smith, will play the giant alongside the four who are students in Creative Cauldron’s Learning Theater program.
Creative Cauldron’s stage adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s story “The Selfish Giant” features music by composer Matt Conner and large scale puppets by scenic designer Margie Jervis. At the center of the tale is a hard-hearted giant who finds children playing in his garden and decides to build a high wall to keep them out. Soon, he learns that no children mean no spring. A special boy shows the giant the true meaning of happiness and melts the selfish giant’s heart.
“The Selfish Giant” production runs through April 10. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 pm. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students and seniors and can be purchased in advance at www.creativecauldron.org or by calling 571-239-5288.
Creative Cauldron at ArtSpace Falls Church is located at 410 S. Maple Avenue in the Pearson Square building. Free parking is available in the garages at 410 and 400 S. Maple Avenue.
Now in its 10th year, Creative Cauldron is a non-profit organization that provides educational programs and affordable access to the performing and visual arts for children, teens and adults. The “cauldron” serves as a symbol for collaboration, experimentation and community engagement. A circle of professional teaching artists trained in theater, dance, music or visual arts lead Creative Cauldron programs. These artists share a core belief that opportunities for arts learning, participation and enjoyment should be available to everyone.
By FALLS CHURCH TIMES STAFF
March 3, 2011
The Virginia Department of Education has awarded Falls Church a $3 million Qualified School Construction Bond (QSCB) to expand Thomas Jefferson Elementary School. QSCBs provide near zero interest construction loans to local school districts across the United States. Falls Church was one of only 33 school divisions in Virginia to secure awards in the $229 million round.
“We are thrilled by and grateful for the state’s decision,” said School Board Chair Joan Wodiska. ”A year from now, Thomas Jefferson Elementary School will hit capacity. Our City needed the tremendous financial opportunity and assistance afforded through a QSCB to meet growing student populations, create a 21st century learning community, and eliminate trailers.”
The award will help ensure that the City will have adequate school facilities capable of providing a world-class education to every student. The QSCB will save taxpayers approximately $1.3 million in interest charges, compared to a similar project funded through traditional municipal bond efforts.
FCCPS’ winning application focuses on:
> Right-sizing the Thomas Jefferson cafeteria so it meets the needs of the City’s growing student population;
> Adding 12 new classrooms to the current facility;
> Removing trailers from the current TJ site;
> Providing wireless Internet at TJ, while also providing free Wi-Fi to low-income students to support learning outside of the school building.
“By working together – the School Board, the City Council, the Planning Commission, and the Long Range Financial Advisory Group – produced a decisive victory for City residents,” Ms. Wodiska said. “The School Board’s strong leadership to secure this QSCB award demonstrates our firm commitment to be effective stewards of both our children’s education and our City’s dollars. I am proud of our work and deeply grateful for everyone’s contribution to produce this community victory.”
Since the full amount requested ($5.95 million) was not awarded, the Board, Council and Planning Commission will need to discuss how to supplement the QSCB award to achieve a project that addresses the capacity needs at TJ Elementary. Detailed planning for the TJ expansion project will begin immediately. School officials expect construction to be completed for the start of the 2013-2014 school year.
By GEORGE BROMLEY
Falls Church Times Staff
November 17, 2010
The Falls Church City Council unanimously approved a resolution Monday evening that authorizes the City to seek $5.95 million in Quality School Construction Bonds (QSCB). Resolutions usually are not passed at Council work sessions, however speed was essential as the City’s application to the Virginia Public School Authority and the Virginia Department of Education must be filed by this Friday.
School Board chair Joan Wodiska advised the Council that the funds would be used for the renovation and expansion of Thomas Jefferson Elementary School. Although the cost of the ideal plan would exceed the amount requested, the QSCB funds would enable the City to conduct the first phase, which would involve the addition of 12 classrooms, elimination of the trailers, and expansion of the cafeteria. She also stated that the Board has committed to making the first three years of debt service payments on the QSCBs from the School Fund Balance
QSCBs are tax credit bonds authorized for school construction and renovation projects under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). Issuers are eligible to receive a direct federal subsidy in an amount that is expected to offset the interest payments made on the bonds, resulting in zero, or near zero, interest cost. Issuers are still responsible for repayment of bond principal. Using the bonds to fund the improvements will result in projected savings of $138,000 per year, or $2.6 million over the life of the bond, as compared to conventional tax exempt bond financing.
The Council also discussed guidance and the calendar for the FY 2012 budget. A general consensus was achieved on a tax rate of $1.28, which would be 4 cents above the present rate. However that rate, which some members referred to as a “floor”, likely will rise during the subsequent course of budget development. City manager Wyatt Shields stated that the current rate of $1.24 would leave a gap of $1.9 million, even assuming no increases in salaries or the transfer to the schools.
Links to all documents pertaining to Monday’s work session are available at the City’s website .