Robinson Secondary is a big school. So big, that even though new principal Dan Meier has walked around the building several times, he's told the students he's met that they can help each other out.
"I told them, when you're lost, I'll try to help you. If I'm lost, you can try to help me," Meier joked.
The beginning of the school year can bring in new teachers, new instructional methods, additional facilities and even new principals.
Woodson teacher Patrick Full, who teaches math and leadership, hopes to bring in new teaching and project ideas into his classes. Besides the new school year, Full is adjusting to other changes in his life. He got married over the summer.
"I'm always excited for the new school year to get started. I love it," said Full, who added that his back-to-school preparations included creating lesson plans and fixing up his classroom. "I just really enjoy teaching."
Fairfax High School
Students can expect several new teaching initiatives and tools this year at Fairfax High School, said assistant principal Steve Singman.
The Algebra I and Geometry classes will have a component in their curriculum that mixes computer-based learning software with direct instruction. The component is called 'Cognitive Tutor.'
The high school will also have a 12th-grade English class for students who didn't pass the English Standards of Learning (SOL) test, which students need to pass in order to graduate.
As for teachers, they will all use the Web site Blackboard.com to post assignments, syllabi and grading policy. Both students and parents will be able to access the site. While teachers can determine how much information to post on the site, some teachers have already used the Web site to extend discussion beyond the classroom. Last year, a politics class had a chat room where students discussed the television show "The West Wing."
Fairfax High School will also explore the professional learning communities model within its departments. Since teachers returned last Monday, they have been meeting with their departments and school administrators to examine data on student performance. The model calls for structured time within the school day to allow teachers of the same subject and grade to meet and discuss teaching methods and curriculum goals. Fairfax also hopes to extend the teacher dialogue across content areas, Singman said.
"We need to learn to pick one another's brains," said Singman, adding that the model will allow teachers to learn what's worked with their colleagues.
These changes will affect the school's 2,064 students. Although the student population is projected this year at 2,140, the school is making few changes to its campus until tentative renovations start in spring 2005.
Fairfax High School
3500 Old Lee Highway, Fairfax, VA 22030
Programs: Advanced Placement, Academy for communication and fine arts
Dates to Know:
* Friday, Aug. 29. New Student Orientation
* Monday, Sept. 15, at 7 p.m. PTSA meeting.
* Friday, Sept. 19. Unite & Excite.
* Tuesday, Sept. 30, at 7 p.m. Back-to-School Night.
* Friday, Oct. 17. Homecoming game.
* Saturday, Oct. 18. Homecoming dance.
Besides a new principal, Robinson students should expect to meet several new teachers next week. Seventh and eighth graders in the middle school will meet 10 new teachers, while the high school will have 36 new teachers.
Robinson will also have a new director of student activities, a new middle school guidance director, an 11th grade sub-school principal, and a newly created position for an assistant principal for special education.
These teachers will be among the dozens who will instruct the school's roughly 4,364 students. With 1,323 students in the middle school and 3,041 students in the high school, Robinson competes with Lake Braddock Secondary as the largest school in the Commonwealth.
"We're just a very, very large place," said principal Dan Meier.
Because the school is over its capacity of 4,000 students, the school has 24 classroom trailers. Robinson also copes with its size by using mobile computer technology vs. the standard PC platform, which allows more rooms to be available for classes.
"Space is such a commodity here," Meier said.
Instructionally, Robinson began this summer examining whether the professional learning communities model should be implemented for all grades. The model, which several county schools have already adopted, gives teachers structured time within the school day to meet with their colleagues of the same subject and grade, to align their curriculum goals and discuss teaching methods and student performance.
For students who need extra academic help, Robinson already has in place remedial classes for SOL subjects, as well as a reading program for both middle and high schoolers.
"We really stress reading as critical to all aspects of our curriculum," Meier said.
5035 Sideburn Road, Fairfax, VA 22032
Programs: International Baccalaureate
* Wednesday, Sept. 17. Back-to-School Night for seventh and eighth graders.
* Wednesday, Sept. 24. Back-to-School Night for 11th and 12th graders.
* Wednesday, Oct. 1. Back-to-School Night for ninth and 10th graders.
* Friday, Oct. 24. Homecoming.
Woodson High School
Students at Woodson this year can expect to see some changes in administrative staff and instruction. Three new assistant principals, two new counselors and 20 new teachers, including those who are part-time or in the special education program, will be part of the Woodson roster for 2003-2004, according to principal Robert Elliott.
Although student enrollment in the upper 1,800s is nearing the school's capacity of 2,000, major renovations to the school will begin in fall 2006.
"We're working on it," said Elliott of the meetings that began last spring between him, parents, students and the county architect. "It's an exciting process."
Elliott said Woodson is trying to encourage its teachers to post assignments and classwork on the Web site Blackboard.com, where it would be accessible to both students and parents. However, the recent computer worm could affect when teachers may start using the Web as a resource.
"I think we're in good shape," said Elliott of back-to-school preparations. "The biggest problem from us to the railroad is the wonderful worm out there."
Despite the computer glitch, Elliott said teachers have been working together to implement all the mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act. For instance, incoming special education students will take a diagnostic SOL test so that instructors and counselors can identify those who might need extra support throughout their high school career. Instructors would use this data, as well as data from state results of the eighth grade SOL test.
Besides receiving state accreditation, Woodson, like its neighbor Fairfax High School, was recently cited by a Newsweek magazine article as a top public school in the U.S.
"We feel we've been reasonably successful over the past few years," Elliott said.
Woodson High School
9525 Main Street, Fairfax, VA 22031
Programs: Advanced Placement
*Tuesday, Sept. 23. Back-to-School Night.
*Friday, Oct. 24. Homecoming game against Marshall.