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Discover Western Prince William October 2018
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Discover WPW
T h e b e g i n n i n g
of the 2018 19
school year was
particularly special
in Prince William
C o u n t y, w h e r e
I n d e p e n d e n c e
N o n t r a d i t i o n a l
School officially
opened in its newly
completed facility on
the corner of Aden
and Joplin Roads
in Manassas. This
c o m p r e h e n s i ve
c a m p u s r e p r e s e n t s a
merging of three facilities:
New Directions Alternative
Education Center, PACE East,
and New Dominion Alternative
At the helm is principal Bob
Eichorn, who has been
involved with nontraditional/alternative education
for 28 years and has had a lifelong penchant for
equity. "I believe when the playing fi eld is level,
students are able to achieve," he says. "When it
isn't, they face challenges."
Beginning as a teacher in
Fairfax County in 1990, he
served in several schools for
17 years. During the 1997
98 school year, he had a
unique opportunity to serve
as principal in a bilingual
school in Ecuador. Because his father served in
the military, Mr. Eichorn's family spent time living in
Venezuela during his youth, allowing him to achieve
fl uency in Spanish. Upon his return from Ecuador,
he opened several alternative schools in Fairfax
County and subsequently went on to serve as a
principal, moving to New Directions Alternative
Education Center in January 2008.
Mr. Eichorn explains that there were several reasons
for bringing these three education
facilities under one roof, including
replacing older
and outdated
facilities with
one that could
provide the
full spectrum
of academic,
voc ational,
and arts programs and social-
emotional services. Independence
Nontraditional School is the only
K12 nontraditional school in
Virginia that
has a comprehensive band and
music program, family/consumer
sciences facilities, foreign
language courses, and advanced
placement opportunities.
"It all goes back to equity," Mr.
Eichorn says. "To provide this for
our students, we needed a facility to manage it." He
also points out that nontraditional students are often
more mature
and seek to
g r a d u a t e
f a s t e r .
" We h a v e
s t u d e n t s
who support
their parents
for various
reasons and
students who
are parents
h e a d d s .
" J u s t a s
important, we have students who may get `lost' in
a classroom of 30 kids. But put them in a smaller
class with 1215 kids, and they're noticed. They have
opportunities to build relationships with teachers
and peers."
I n d e p e n d e n c e
N o n t r a d i t i o n a l
School is a K12
program, with the
special education
c enter ser ving
K12 youth and
the nontraditional
school ser ving
s t u d e n t s i n
g r a d e s 6 1 2 .
Youth that need
the consistency
of being in one
building for their
secondary education benefi t from this, and thanks
to its full curricular offerings, it's possible for a
student to earn an advanced studies diploma in
two-and-a-half years.
"We individualize each program based on academic
and socioemotional needs," Mr. Eichorn says.
"It's not just for
challenged kids
but for those
who don't fi t in
the traditional
school model.
The more we
for them, the
bet ter their
opportunity for
But it 's not
j u s t a b o u t
a c a d e m i c s .
Mr. Eichorn notes that the national college
dropout rate is 40% for fi rst-year freshmen,
so at Independence Nontraditional School,
the faculty focuses on teaching interviewing
and other soft skills. To graduate, students
must meet with Mr. Eichorn to defend
their Senior Portfolio, which includes a
resume, cover letter,
personal budget,
post baccalaureate
academic plan, and
school evaluation.
"When our students
graduate, they have
the skills to sustain them,"
he says.
Current total enrollment stands at nearly 600
students, but they accept new students throughout
the year. "It's a fi t-match dynamic," Mr. Eichorn says.
If they fi nd a student isn't thriving in a traditional
environment, a referral can be made by a teacher,
parent, or the student. Any student--whether they
need an accelerated schedule, a different location,
or a fresh start--may be better served by enrolling
at Independence Nontraditional School.
I'm very fortunate," Mr. Eichorn adds. "I'm blessed
to be surrounded by outstanding kids and great
educators. It makes what I do a lot of fun and very
gratifying." To learn more, visit
independence. or call (571) 374-6600.
~ Nancy Griffi n-Bonnaire
Independence Nontraditional School
Removes Traditional Barriers
Bob Eichorn, Principal
Subschool administrators
Staff in pre-service training
Student Services Team
Dr. Walts and Principal Eichorn with
school mascot