Manassas Park will hold a double celebration today -- Independence Day and the little jurisdiction's 10th anniversary as a city. Festivities, which begin with a parade at 10 a.m., include a baby contest, softball games, music, rides and fireworks. A slide presentation and bus tours of the Conner Center Industrial Park will highlight the day. Conner Center, which houses 30 new businesses and is looking for more, is seen by city officials as the best hope for lowering real estate taxes in Manassas Park. Taxes there are the highest in Northern Virginia.

Manassas Park fourth and eighth graders scored within seven points of the Virginia average in all categories of the national standardized SRA (Science Research Associates) tests recently. But 11th graders scored several points less than the average in all categories; they dropped to 19 points below the average in math alone.

"I don't know why this happened but we're going to find out," said the city's new school superintendent, Jimmy Stuart. He noted that the 11th graders who scored so low this year "are the same ones who scored average or above" when they were tested in the eighth grade. "They seemed to lose their motivation along the way," Stuart said. "We have to convinced these kids the SRA scores are important."

Manassas Park, which has always tested kindergarten through 12th grade, will eliminate testing in kindergarten and ninth, 10th and 12th grade next year. "It will save us about $5,000," said Stuart of the hard-pressed school district. Nationally only fourth, eighth and 11th graders are tested.