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Elementary Schools Ready for Back to School

August 16, 2002

Vienna Elementary

Principal Linda Clark is projecting that enrollment will be high this year, at around 380 students. Last year Clark predicted the school would open with 321 students, but the actual number was 356. That number that steadily increased over the year.

"Some of the established neighborhoods in Vienna, and there are many established neighborhoods in Vienna, have people leaving the area and young families moving in," Clark said. "Some families I have, there are people who have bought their parents’ homes. Every year we have a grandparents day and invariably we have grandparents who sat in the same classrooms as their grandchildren."

Vienna Elementary is the oldest school in the county, Clark said, with the original section of the current building erected in 1923. There has been a school on the site since 1872.

The growing student population at the school will bring a new face to the main office. This is the first year the school has qualified for an assistant principal. Sam Elson, who served as an administrative intern last year at Stenwood Elementary, will fill the position.

"We’re excited," Clark said. "It will certainly be a help to me and a help to all of us."

<sh>Wolftrap Elementary

<bt>Principal Virginia Mahlke is still interviewing prospective teachers to fill out her staff, which will include around 45 instructors. By opening day there will be six new teachers at the school, which Mahlke expects will have an enrollment of between 580 and 585.

"I’m still hiring," Mahlke said last week. "It takes a good part of the summer. I have a whole stack of résumés."

The school has four trailers, which have been in use for three years.

The school is continuing a set of conduct-modeling programs, all of which have been in place during years past. One program, Costa’s Habits of Mind, teaches students problem solving skills. For the Character Counts program, instructors encourage and model six character traits: Respect, responsibility, trustworthiness, fairness, caring and citizenship. Manners Matter at Wolf Trap encourages three basic manners: Greeting people and responding to greetings, saying please and thank you, and making sure not to interrupt others.

"There are some manners that, if you have 600 people in one building, you just need to know," Mahlke said. "Teachers model the different manners and character traits, and they recognize the kids when they do them."

Waples Mill Elementary

This year Waples Mill Elementary may start to look like more like an aquarium than an elementary school. Principal Dale Brooks is working on a project, along with the Under the Sea organization, to bring a set of aquariums into the school. If everything goes as planned, there will be three aquariums at the school. One will be filled with tropical fish, another with specimens naturally found in the Chesapeake Bay and the third aquarium will feature pond life.

"This will give kids the opportunity not only to learn about the Chesapeake Bay, and ponds in the area, but will they will also learn how to care for them, how to maintain the tanks," Brooks said.

The principal expects an enrollment of 841 at the Oakton school, with a teaching staff of 40 to 45. There will be five new teachers at the school this year.

Brooks said she and her staff are looking at expanding the school’s math enrichment program this year. This program provides additional, higher level instruction for the school’s advanced math students. There are also plans to develop a program for students who have fallen behind.

"We want to plan something more specific," Brooks said. "It’s not that we want to make it more one-on-one but we can look at test scores, at what areas where students are having trouble, and plan instruction accordingly."

Oakton Elementary

The halls of Oakton Elementary should be brighter this year. The school is scheduled to have its lighting system evaluated this year. Principal Sara Acuff is anxious to have adjustments made, and said some of the school’s halls and classrooms are darker than others.

"It’s not something that stands out, until you look at some of the newer parts of the building, where the lighting is much brighter" Acuff said.

Because of cuts to this year’s school budget, Acuff has had to make some minor alterations to her spending plan. For example, instead of buying new math textbooks for grades kindergarten through sixth, Acuff bought textbooks for grades kindergarten through third only.

"We’re feeling the pinch, but its really more on materials than on personnel," Acuff said. "If [the cuts] keep on, I would start to worry. But this year, we’re fine. I’ve got so many good professionals, who are so creative, that they will be able to handle it."

Acuff expects an enrollment of around 695 students, the same amount as last year. There will be six new faces among the approximately 45 instructors at the school. The principal has two more slots to fill at the school. She said she starts looking for new teachers as early as January or February.

"To get the best people, it is pretty personal to each school," Acuff said.

Louise Archer Elementary

The grounds of Louise Archer will be undergoing a few changes this year.

Two new trailers will be installed on the upper grade playground. To make room for the displaced students, the area of the main playground will be expanded. The school courtyard is also being renovated to include new brickwork and landscaping.

"It will be so students can go out and work on science projects," said principal Dwayne Young. "Teachers will be able to take their classes outside, or parents will be able to use it when they want to meet."

Another change at Louise Archer is the growth among the student body. Young said enrollment will be up by 40 to 50 students, with around 650 to 660 total students. Young attributed the growth to two factors: the infusion of new families in the surrounding neighborhood, and a change in the screening process for the gifted and talented center.

"There is a new non-verbal screening device to identify the gifted students who may not speak English as a first language," Young said.

There will be 23 classroom teachers at the school, and 70 total workers at the school. There will also be a new assistant principal, Michelle Makrigiorgos, who was an administrative intern last year at Clairmont Elementary. Makrigiorgos was a classroom teacher for seven years before last year.

Cunningham Park Elementary

Preliminary investigation is underway to make Cunningham Park a News Channel Four weather station. Principal Brenda Sinclair said the school is examining fundraising strategies in order to pay for the necessary equipment. If a weather station is installed, the students will be actively involved in its operation, Sinclair said.

"They will learn so much about predicting the weather, measuring it, and how it impacts the environment," Sinclair said.

Plans are also in the works for a character education step team. Students on the team will learn synchronized dance steps while chanting messages promoting positive character traits such as honesty and trustworthiness.

There will be around 375 students at the school this year, 14 classroom teachers and 35 total teachers. There will be three new teachers on staff. The school campus includes three trailers.

Westbriar Elementary

After having finished a three-year renovation project last year, Westbriar Elementary principal Jeanette Martino is glad to say that no new construction projects are planned for this year.

There will be a new administrative intern, Rob Graham, who will be the third intern at the school in the same number of years.

"It is exciting to work alongside a teacher who is aspiring to be an administrator," Martino said.

The principal estimated enrollment to be 430 students and there will be 18 classroom teachers at the school. There will be approximately 30 total teachers, and five of those instructors will be new to Westbriar.

Over the summer Westbriar teachers have been studying the new math series put in place by the county. The math program places a higher emphasis on hands-on learning and everyday math applications than previous instructional programs.

The Westbriar PTA is also adding a few new after school programs, including a chess club and some new science programs.

Marshall Road Elementary

Although Marshall Road enrollment should start out at around 500 students, about equal to last year, principal Judith Isaacson is expecting a jump in students toward the end of 2002. In November a developer plans to sell 35 units near the Vienna Metro, located just across Nutley Street, facing the school.

"We'll probably be dealing with a lot of kiddos coming," Isaacson said.

Although there are currently no trailers at the school, Isaacson said that statistic may change when students arrive at the new development.

There will be 20 classroom teachers at the school, with close to 75 total instructors. Many of those instructors work with either the gifted and talented or special education programs at the school. The school is continuing several gifted and talented elective classes, which pull students out of their core classrooms. To cut down on disruptions caused by the electives, the school is planning on scheduling those electives on Mondays, leaving the rest of the week uninterrupted.

"We're trying to do a lot of creative scheduling," Isaacson said.

A group of eight George Washington University graduate students will be interning at Marshall Road this year, working primarily with emotionally disabled students.

Flint Hill Elementary

Flint Hill's physical education students will be treated to a special piece of equipment this coming year.

The school was recently approved for a climbing wall, and the apparatus was installed this past Sunday. The physical education department pushed for the wall, stressing the importance of upper body strength. The Flint Hill PTA worked to raise the money for the eight-foot wall.

"Our [physical education] teachers stressed importance of upper body strength," said Flint Hill principal Salvador Rivera. "A lot of [physical education] classes focus on cardio, running, but maybe they forget upper strength."

Although it is still a few years off, Rivera and his staff are making preliminary plans for the school's 50th anniversary, coming up in 2005. Rivera has been talking with other Vienna schools who have recently held anniversary celebrations, to generate ideas for his school.

"We want to get the community involved on activities anywhere from putting together yearbooks from as many years as can, to writing letters about past experiences at the school," Rivera said. "We also may build a Web site where past students can about who inspired them, what teachers they had."

Rivera was excited by his students' Standards of Learning test results from the past year. In three of four subject areas, over 90 percent of the students passed the test. In history, 86 percent of the students passed.

"We're trying to capture the path we took, what we did correctly, and trying to repeat it," Rivera said. We will examine all the things we've done, refine them, and make them better."