Tysons, VA

After a lengthy process, the Fairfax County School Board has approved a new moniker for the Fairfax school formerly known as Mosby Woods Elementary School.

The board voted 10-2 in favor of renaming the building Mosaic Elementary School during a meeting yesterday (Thursday).

The new name was adopted more than half a year after Providence District School Board Representative Karl Frisch and at-large member Karen Keys-Gamarra made an initial appeal to rename the school on June 18.

“Mosaic is not perfect. Mosaics are not perfect,” Frisch said on Thursday. “But the irregular pieces of stone, glass and ceramic that make mosaics result in something special. That is my hope for Mosby Woods community.”

The decision to change the school’s name came with support from descendants of the school’s namesake, Colonel John S. Mosby. The descendants sent a letter to the school board to request Fairfax County rename the school in the interest of “maintaining an inclusive environment for all students.”

Mosby was a Confederate commander who led a guerrilla campaign against Union supply and communications lines throughout northern Virginia during the Civil War.

“Today was an opportunity to say we live in a community, we live in a county that speaks over 200 languages and has people from all walks of life,” member-at-large Abrar Omeish said. “Mosaic is a way to bring everyone together under that name.”

Inspired by the school’s relative proximity to the Mosaic District in Merrifield, the name “Mosaic” was one of five options that Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand recommended on Oct. 22 to replace Mosby Woods.

The two votes against renaming the school to Mosaic came from Keys-Gamarra and Mount Vernon District Representative Karen Corbett-Sanders. Corbett-Sanders did not give her support to the new name out of concern that it “is associated with a different geographic region than that where the current school is located.”

Keys-Gamarra expressed disappointment about comments from some community and staff members who she said dismissed the idea of renaming the school after notable women of color, such as Mae Jemison, Sylvia Mendez, Patsy Mink, and Rebecca Lee Crumpler.

“I heard it more than once: ‘These people don’t represent us.’ And I heard it from staff. That was hurtful to me because there is no denial that these are great Americans,” Keys-Gamarra said. “I’ve spoken to community members — at least one — that had that view until our conversation. They said, ‘We have Asians and Hispanics, and we have so many people. That’s why these people don’t represent us and Mosaic is so much better.'”

The school board voted on Oct. 8 to change the school’s name. The board had originally been scheduled to select a new name in December but postponed its decision to solicit more community engagement.

Image via FCPS

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On Tuesday morning, the Fairfax County School Board approved a proposal to convert the Dunn Loring Administration Center into an elementary school.

All 10 board members who were present supported the measure. Two members were absent at the time of the vote.

The move is intended to relieve overcrowding at Shrevewood Elementary School in Falls Church and avoid the need to make multiple boundary adjustments.

“We want to limit the disruption to the community, and potentially facing several adjustments is not a path we want to go down,” Providence District Representative Karl Frisch told the board.

Fairfax County Public Schools staff support the plan but want to avoid setting a firm timeline to keep their focus on returning to school, he said. Once planning starts, a new school could be ready in five years.

“This is one of the first steps that needs to be done to deal with the development going on in that area,” Dranesville District Representative Elaine Tholen said.

Today, the Dunn Loring center houses some special education services and programs for parents, but it previously served as an elementary school from 1939 to 1978.

Converting it back will cost $36.8 million in school bond funds. The school board will be using funds that were earmarked for a new school in the Fairfax/Oakton area, which was intended to lessen overcrowding at Mosby Woods and Oakton elementary schools.

The student populations at those schools have since dropped below capacity, Frisch said. Meanwhile, Shrevewood is “bursting at the seams” and could reach 120% capacity by 2025.

The school was first identified as slightly overcrowded in 2012, and became substantially overcrowded in 2017, FCPS spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said. Since 2012, the school has taken steps to ease crowding, such as adding space, trailers and more parking, she said.

Repurposing the Dunn Loring center is a more viable long-term solution than redrawing boundaries, Shrevewood Elementary PTA president Kate Coho told Tysons Reporter.

“Dunn Loring provides the long-term solution to the problem that’s only going to get worse in this immediate area, as we see housing continuing to go up,” she said.

At-large school board member Abrar Omeish said Shrevewood’s over-capacity is not as stark as schools like Glen Forest Elementary School, which has “more kids in trailers than in the building” and a 75% poverty rate.

“When people say that we focus more on schools that have more than the ones that don’t, I can’t refute that,” she said.

Hunter Mill Representative Melanie Meren said no solution will serve everyone, but this repurposing option is available now.

“I thought this would be a more straightforward conversation,” she said.

The Fairfax County School Board currently does not have any official policies dictating a public process for reallocating bond funds to different projects than the ones they were intended to support when approved by voters.

Frisch held two community meetings in December on the Dunn Loring repurposing proposal, one for the Shrevewood community and one for the Mosby Woods/Oakton area. However, the school board’s guidebook does not require those meetings or even a forum discussion for proposals to change how bond funds are allocated.

As part of the approval, the school board also directed its governance committee, which is chaired by Frisch, to look at developing a mechanism for a public process to ensure more clarity and transparency for future projects such as this one.

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The Fairfax County School Board is postponing its decision to rename Mosby Woods Elementary School to solicit more community engagement.

“We have not had the level of public participation that we had hoped for, and therefore, we are working with staff to come up additional options and to solicit additional community input,” Providence District School Board representative Karl Frisch said during the school board meeting last night (Thursday).

“More information about these two items will be announced as details are worked out with staff,” he said.

Frisch and at-large member Karen Keys-Gamarra proposed renaming Mosby Woods Elementary School on June 18 with the support of descendants of Mosby.

The school board voted on Oct. 8 to change the name so that it no longer recognizes John S. Mosby, a Confederate colonel who led a guerrilla campaign against Union supply and communications lines in Northern Virginia during the Civil War.

Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand assembled a list of recommended names in October:

  • Mosaic – a nod to the school’s proximity to the Mosaic District
  • Five Oaks – the name of the road where the school is located
  • Katherine Johnson – a mathematician who helped make spaceflight and the Apollo 11 moon landing possible as a “computer” for NASA
  • Mary McBride – a teacher who helped start a school near Fairfax Court House for the children of freed slaves after the Civil War
  • Barbara Rose Johns – a student civil rights activist who led a strike in protest of conditions at the all-black Moton High School in Farmville, Va., paving the way for Brown v. Board of Education

Five Oaks currently has a slim lead in Tysons Reporter’s poll on the subject.

During a public hearing on Wednesday (Dec. 2), Mosby Woods teachers Nikki Hudson and Jenny Smith endorsed Mosaic.

“Every teacher on our staff, every enrolled student, all have colorful pieces within themselves that represent their nationalities, religions, heritage and beliefs, and so much more,” Hudson said. “These pieces come together to create an atmosphere that is conducive to acceptance and learning.”

Smith said that sixth-grade teachers had the opportunity to share the recommended names with all seven classes. Students “overwhelmingly” voted for Five Oaks and Mosaic, which received 56 and 74 votes, respectively.

While students said Five Oaks was “simple” and “sounds good,” their answers for Mosaic went deeper.

“They said things like, ‘We are all different cultures, and when we are all put together, we are a beautiful picture where we all belong,'” she said.

They were very concerned, however, about the mascot: “The mascot of mustangs is very important to these sixth graders,” Smith said. “Mosaic Mustangs seems to fit.”

Speaking for unionized Fairfax teachers, Fairfax County Federation of Teachers President Tina Williams recommended Barbara Rose Johns because of how “her dedication, perseverance and hard work contributed to the ruling of Brown v. Board of Education.”

“Unfortunately, racial segregation is still alive and present in Virginia,” she said. “A recent report found that racial segregation has gotten worse over the last 15 years, especially in Virginia metro areas, due to overt and covert racist policies.”

A few people suggested names not on the list, including civil rights icon Ruby Bridges and L. Douglas Wilder, the first African American governor in the country and the Commonwealth.

“He was a man who brought so much service and dedication to our Commonwealth and the country as a former war hero, governor and state senator,” student Teddy Geiss said.

Photo via FCPS

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