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Northern Virginia Public Schools

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By crazymomof2 on Sat, 06-10-06, 17:45

My husband is currently considering a job offer in Church Falls, Virginia. We know absolutely nothing about the area except home prices that I've researched on realtor.com. I was wondering if anyone had any advice for us. Specifically, we'd like to know which elementary schools have good academic reputations and which schools seem to be willing to accommodate peanut allergic kids. I've seen some older posts, but nothing recent. Thanks so much.

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By ceross on Wed, 06-14-06, 02:34

crazymomof2,
I live in Loudoun County and my daughter will enter kindergarten this fall. I've found that each school district handles food allergies differently and some are better than others. A neighbor with food allergic children told me in an email that Fairfax County is well-prepared and manages food allergies well; she had taught in the Fairfax County school system.

Loudoun County handles the allergies differently and might not be consistent throughout the district. Loudoun County does not do 504 plans. They have what is essentially a checklist that includes the physician's directive. In addition, they have a form on which you list the foods your child cannot have. Personally, this form scares the Dickens out of me. I have been told that the all the personnel in the school my daughter will attend have been trained in Epi-Pen use by an RN (though I believe this is now the law in VA). Also, no peanuts are served in the cafeteria and there is a protocol on where allergic children sit in the cafeteria, and a binder listing all allergic children and their allergies is kept in the cafeteria as well so that lunch monitors know who they are.

I hope this helps. Good luck on the move. Falls Church is a great area.

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By selketine on Wed, 06-14-06, 21:01

Loudon county cannot refuse to do a 504 plan for a peanut allergic child. Maybe they aren't used to doing them or strongly discourage them but it doesn't mean you cannot ask for one if your child is in public school. Were you refused a 504?

At least that is my understanding of the law. Without the 504 in place you don't have the protections.

I'm in Montgomery County which is in the DC suburbs but on the Maryland side so I'm always interested in local discussions even if not in my school district. ;-)

I know in Loudon County a person I know fought and won against the school district to have someone at schools at all times to administer glucagon shots and insulin for kids with type 1 diabetes. Glucagon is sort of like an epi-pen in that it is an emergency life saving shot for diabetics who go too low and pass out or have a seizure. My 4 yr old son not only has a severe peanut allergy but is a type 1 diabetic which is how I came to know her. Her story is here: [url="http://www.diabeteshealth.com/read,2,1759.html"]http://www.diabeteshealth.com/read,2,1759.html[/url]

I think some of the good work she and others have done in Loudon county could help you out in that there should be trained caregivers around at many or all of the schools who could also do the epi-pen.

Sorry I can't be of more help to the OP who is possibly moving to Falls Church. I have yet to find someone in my county who has PA kids either! You would think in such an urban area where many are SO well educated that allergy awareness wouldn't be as big an issue (or diabetes for that matter) but the schools still seem just as backwards as anywhere else for the most part.

Carol G.

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By selketine on Wed, 06-14-06, 21:10

I looked up the Falls Church City schools policy on administration of medication at their website (do a google search on falls church virginia school board and look for policies).

Here is a link to their policy on administering glucagon (as I described in my post above) and the epi-pen:
[url="http://www.fccps.k12.va.us/html/studentpolicies/9.38R.pdf"]http://www.fccps.k12.va.us/html/studentpolicies/9.38R.pdf[/url]

You need to go down to IV. a. for the relevant info - on page 7 of the document. It sounds like they do require at 3 staff members to be trained and someone there at all times who can give the shot. That is a great thing!

I've found that there are school policies for the state of Maryland on allergic students, etc. so maybe VA has similar ones. Most do not deal specifically with the kinds of accomodations we ask for (peanut free class room, hand washing, etc).

Hope that helps. I encourage anyone to look up their local school board policies. I think I'm going to try to change our county's policy to make it similar to Falls Church - that sounds great to me :-)

Carol

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By Momcat on Wed, 06-14-06, 23:55

The only thing that bothers me is how they say they are not trained to "observe symptoms" of anaphylaxis. They just administer epipen if someone reports exposure to the allergen on the list.

Cathy

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By Anne Parrish on Thu, 06-15-06, 17:29

Hi, welcome to the area!

If you have survived the sticker shock from the housing, all the rest is going tobe easy!

I live in Fairfax County & have for 20 years or so. I have 2 kids --currently in 8th grade (no known allergies) & 6th grade (PA, as well as other FAs).

The thing about a Falls Church address is that you have to find out if you map to the Fairfax County schools (very large school system, pretty well respected & well run, but definitely a large bureaucracy) or the Falls Church city schools (supposed to be quite good; many people move into the school district deliberately... and since what they are 'escaping' is the Fairfax County Schools, the Falls Church schools must be pretty darned good!)

I have had excellent experiences (for my comfort zone, etc.) w/ the Fairfax County schools. I know there is some natural uneasiness about the idea of the school administering the Epi upon any exposure tot he allergen, but having seen how well an Epi works (we have administered it twice -- both times at home), I would never want them to do it any other way. There is a chance of error in any case, but the consequences of *not* administering the Epi when you should far outweigh the consequences of the reverse.

So, I don't have any specific advice about what schools are good or not good, either academically or food allergy-wise -- certainly the income level & demographics vary *wildly* in the older areas of Fairfax County & that has academic implications... for instance, Falls Church is very close to Bailey's Crossroads, which has a significant lower income/immigrant population (not that I have anything against such populations... I am just reporting the facts!) so they have made the Bailey's Crossroads Elementary School a magnet school for the Arts & Sciences... very cool program but was put in place specifically to bolster a struggling school. They often do the same thing for Gifted & Talented schools... put them in schools whose populations could use an infusion of academically motivated (& high scoring on those all important tests!) kids -- but I would happily help poke around once you have some specific schools that you are considering.

I general, Falls Church is a great (if a bit congested) place to live. Let us know what you guys decide to do!

Anne

P.S. There was a Fairfax County Public School over in that side of the county (I live near Dulles airport, so this is all pretty far from me...) that got a FAAN award a few years back. I remember contacting the principal to get advice on how to deal w/ my kid's school... I bet we could find out which school that was... maybe it would be close enough to your husband's new job!

P.P.S. One other thing I have heard of to consider... slightly old info, so maybe our neighbors from Loudoun County can update it... but when we were considering a move (we are in our 3rd Fairfax County house), we got medical advice to stick to Fairfax County, not Loudoun County, because Fairfax has a professional EMT staff & Loudoun's is volunteer. This had something to w/ my child's allergies & their ability to adminster the epi on the ambulance, as I recall. This was quite a few (7 or so?) years ago so it may no longer be relevant. I only offer up this info in case you guys decide to look for a place to live a little farther out where houses are (slightly) bigger/cheaper/newer/whatever.

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By ceross on Thu, 06-15-06, 17:57

Anne,
I just moved to Loudoun (Brambleton section of Ashburn) from Arlington 2.5 years ago. Most (not all) the fire and EMS services in Loudoun are volunteer. However, that said, many also do have ALS ambulances that do carry epinepherine. In fact, I specifically checked with our local fire house (Arcola) and they can administer it.

My greatest concern with medical services in Loudoun is the fact that there is one hospital and I've not heard very good reviews of it (overcrowded, long waits in ER). If we ever needed to go the ER, I'd request that we be routed to Reston. Thankfully, DD was a day care in Reston (very close to the hospital) when she had her first (and so far only) anaphylactic reaction.

As for Loudoun and 504 plans: The school district uses very similar forms for allergies and for diabetes management. It was the school nurse who said that this form is used. Here's the link with both forms.
[url="http://cmsweb1.loudoun.k12.va.us/50910061112842/FileLib/browse.asp?A=374&BMDRN=2000&BCOB=0&C=67367"]http://cmsweb1.loudoun.k12.va.us/50910061112842/FileLib/browse.asp?A=374&BMDRN=2000&BCOB=0&C=67367[/url]

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By crazymomof2 on Fri, 06-16-06, 19:24

Thanks everybody, for your responses. I have a year to figure all of this out. It's nice to know I already have some "contacts." I mentioned this in work today and, lo and behold, the person standing next to me told me she was from Reston! Small world. I think we'll take a few preliminary trips to get a feel for neighborhoods and such, and then work from there. I'll keep everyone posted on our progress. Thanks again.

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