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More Fairfax Elementaries Turn To Parents To Fund Unique Programs

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In Virginia's Fairfax County, a public school in the Hollin Hills community is pleading parents and local businesses for money to save unique school programs.

Hollin Meadows fifth-grader Jonathan Guerra-Cardial says the coolest thing about the huge garden at his school is being able to eat what you grow, and then turn what's left over into fertilizer.

"Eat the apples, and go like, um, decompose them, put some grass in there -- and put some, like coffee grounds," the 10-year-old explains.

But this year, school administrators have issued a plea to parents to help raise $170,000 by March to preserve the schools learning garden and science lab, among other things that have earned the school national attention. First Lady Michelle Obama even visited last fall.

Outdoor education coordinator Shawn Akard has no illusions about the challenge.

"It's an enormous amount of money," Akard says. "Almost half of our students are on free and reduced lunch, and many of our parents are working two and three jobs."

Despite the special outdoor education emphasis offered at Hollin Meadows, school board members say the school's situation is not unique.

There are several schools turning to their surrounding communities to save programs.

More budget cuts are expected this coming year, but the school district won't know how deep the cuts will be until the county decides on a tax rate this Spring.

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