WAMU 88.5 : News

Filed Under:

Fairfax County Schools' Planetarium Shut Down Indefinitely

Play associated audio
The planetarium at Carl Sandburg Middle School in Fairfax County is now used as classroom space.
Michael Pope
The planetarium at Carl Sandburg Middle School in Fairfax County is now used as classroom space.

Class is in session at Carl Sandburg Middle School in Fairfax County, but the planetarium in the school's building is dark. Principal Terrence Yarborough says it's been mothballed indefinitely.

"The planetarium of not part of the seventh or eight grade curriculum," he says.

Through the door, up the stairs and down the hall, Yarborough heads toward what was a planetarium, now being used as a classroom. It was originally built as part of Fort Hunt High School. But now the building has become Carl Sandburg Middle School, which is about to start a $45 million renovation. But the planetarium is not included in the renovation. That would cost another $257,000, which so far isn't in the plan.

"What are we going to do in a planetarium? I mean you could have some programs in there," he says. "But, that I really don t know."

Some parents are frustrated by the school system's reluctance to invest more funds in the planetarium.

"I'm really not happy," says Jeanne O'Hara, parent of an eighth grader. She says letting the planetarium go would be a mistake. "I think it's just such a waste of a resource in this county."

When the renovation is completed, school officials say the planetarium will become a storage closet.

"My reaction to that, is that it's nonsense," says Del. Scott Surovell, who represents Fort Hunt in the Virginia House of Delegates. "There are nine planetariums in Fairfax County, and there's one of them that doesn't t work, and it's in the part of the county that needs it the most."

That's because the school has a high proportion of black, Hispanic, and lower income students, who might benefit from science education.

"The School Board is taking a very myopic view of the planetarium, saying that it's only something seventh and eighth graders will use," says Surovell. "That's a convenient excuse, but it's not a very valid one."

For now, school officials say, the planned renovation is moving forward, without the planetarium.

NPR

Hieronymus Bosch Died 500 Years Ago, But His Art Will Still Creep You Out

Known by some as "the Devil's painter," Bosch depicted imaginary animals and souls being violently tortured. At least one critic believes he's the father of modern art.
NPR

With A Zap, Scientists Create Low-Fat Chocolate

Scientists say they've figured out how to reduce the fat in milk chocolate by running it through an electric field. The result is healthier, but is it tastier?
NPR

'Brexit' Songs: Here Are Your Picks

Yesterday we asked for your picks for the songs that represent the feeling in the U.K. right now. Here are some of your suggestions.
NPR

President Obama Acknowledges 'Brexit' To Silicon Valley Crowd

President Obama delivered a speech Friday at Stanford University, and remarked on the Brexit vote in front of a crowd of young, tech-forward, pro-globalization attendees from 170 countries.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.