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Area Middle Schools Gear Up for 2003-04

A week-and-a-half before the start of school, teachers responsible for a new reading intervention program at Lanier Middle School were busy setting up their classroom.

"I'm excited about the program because we'll have some kids who can't read in their own language," said ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) teacher Caroline Carver. Carver visited some former students in Romania this summer, where she was a Fullbright teacher.

For parents, students and teachers alike, the new school year can bring feelings of excitement and apprehension. As parents and students collect school supplies and look at back-to-school fashions, teachers and school administrators busy themselves preparing classrooms and lesson plans.

"I'm actually ready to get back and get on a schedule," said reading teacher Gail Schwarz, who spent the summer reading, attending a literary institute, doing an administrative educational internship and taking long weekend trips to Cape May and the Eastern Shore.

Now that the summer is almost over, the hallways of Lanier, like so many area schools, are slowly coming back to life, after weeks of cleaning classrooms and school walls.

"It's really great to have teachers come back and tell me about their summers," said Lanier Middle principal Peter Noonan.

Frost Middle School

For days, Marti Jo Jackson was wondering if Frost Middle teachers would give her good grades. As the new principal at Frost, she hoped her first day with the teachers would go smoothly.

When she came home, she told her husband the good news.

"The atmosphere was excellent. Very supportive, very enthusiastic, " Jackson said.

Frost Middle enters the school year with several new additions to the community. Jackson, who had been a Frost assistant principal for two years, will serve as Frost's new principal. The school also finished hiring 13, full-time teachers and two, part-time teachers.

As Jackson begins her tenure, the year's theme for the middle school will be "to stay K12Nect-ed." The theme references a technology initiative that Frost is part of with the Woodson pyramid. But Jackson hopes the theme of connection will play out between school and family, student and teacher, and teacher-to-teacher. To achieve that goal, teachers have been meeting in the past week with their departments to develop ways to help each other out. Students will be connected with the community through Frost's collaboration on the Fall for the Book Festival with George Mason University and Lanier Middle School.

"I wanted to broaden [that vision]," Jackson said.

Besides new staff, the school will also have on its campus two additional classroom trailers, making the trailer total four.

The trailer additions come as Frost inches 100 students beyond its capacity. As of the end of August, the student population stands at roughly 1,068 students.

Despite the squeeze on space, Jackson appreciates the diversity of the school, which, besides its regular curriculum, has programs in both Gifted/Talented and special education for children with disabilities.

"It's just so much fun to work here," Jackson said. "You just can't not have fun working at the middle school level."

Frost Middle School

4101 Pickett Road, Fairfax, VA 22032

703-426-5700

Dates to Know

* Friday, Aug. 29, 9-11 a.m. New-Student Orientation for seventh-graders and new eighth-graders.

* Friday, Aug. 29, 4-6 p.m. New-Student Walk-Around for new students and their families.

* Thursday, Sept. 11. Back-to-School Night.

Lanier Middle School

As Lanier Middle School enters the 2003-04 school year, the faculty will continue some programs started in recent years. The programs aim to support both students and teachers.

"We have several initiatives here at Lanier that we're really excited about," said Lanier principal Peter Noonan.

One program, Lanier Reads, encourages students to read for pleasure beyond school. This year, Lanier will be working with George Mason University on the upcoming fall for the Book Fair.

"We're trying to encourage students to read outside of school as much as they can," Noonan said.

Another program, Scholastic Read 180, helps students who might need extra support, by tailoring the program to individuals' needs. A year-long elective offered for the first time at Lanier, Read 180 has four components: large group instruction on reading skills and strategies, small group instruction, individualized computer stations and independent reading.

For teachers, Lanier will continue the Professional Learning Communities program, which allows teachers of the same subjects to meet during the school day to discuss and review curriculum design. Its three objectives are to determine what students need to know, design curriculum to meet those objectives, and come up with follow-up methods so that students can build on what they've learned.

"It's an opportunity for teachers to have some organizational time within their day," Noonan said.

With its school population hovering over 900 students and rising, Lanier faces a possible multi-million-dollar renovation in a few years. However, for this school year, the school will not have any physical changes to its campus.

As for teachers, students will be welcoming a new seventh-grade English teacher and a new seventh-grade special-education teacher, said Noonan.

Lanier Middle School

3710 Bevan Drive, Fairfax, VA 22030

703-934-2400

Dates to Know

* Friday, Aug. 29. New-Student Orientation for seventh-graders and new eighth-graders

* Tuesday, Sept. 9. Back-to-School Night for seventh-graders

* Thursday, Sept. 11. Back-to-School Night for eighth-graders

Luther Jackson Middle School

Luther Jackson Middle School students will see some external and internal changes when they return to school on Sept. 2. The middle school welcomes eight new teachers in English, math, physical education, special education and ESOL. The school system is currently searching for a new assistant principal to replace Diego Wilson, who moved to Frost Middle School. Staff changes include a new principal's secretary, Susan Tyson, and a new custodian, Margarita Rosales, according to Carol Robinson, Luther Jackson's principal.

Students will also have new colors, "painted in Luther Jackson red," and crews will start painting both the inside and outside of the building.

"It will take several weeks, but well worth the time and effort," said Robinson in an e-mail.

Like Lanier, Luther Jackson also has a Professional Learning Communities program for its teachers. That program started last school year.

Another initiative that started last year was the creation of two pilot honor classes, Science 7 and History 7. Those classes will continue this year, and the school intends to add more honor classes for 2003-04. The new pilot honor classes will be Science 8, Civics 8 and English 7. Students are free to take more than one honors class.

"This is an exciting opportunity to challenge as many students as possible in their areas of strength," Robinson said.

The extra classes and teachers will help ease pressure on the school's enrollment. According to Robinson, school capacity is at 900 students, but the school has exceeded that number for several years. A ten-room addition is in the works for 2005-06, according to the Capital Improvements Program. In the meantime, many rooms will continue to have work space for two teachers. The school has reconstructed several classrooms and added some outdoor classrooms for extra space.

Students who need extra help have several tutoring options. Besides remedial classes, the school supports two programs, COMETs (Children with Many Educational Talents) and AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination). The school also has after-school mentoring and tutoring volunteers from ExxonMobil, the First Baptist Church of Merrifield and other business partners.

Luther Jackson Middle

3020 Gallows Road, Falls Church, VA 22042

703-204-8100

Dates to Know

* Thursday, Sept. 18, at 7 p.m. Back-to-School Night.

* Oct. 6-10. Spirit Week.

* Tuesday, Nov. 11 (Veterans Day). Open House.

* March 6. Future Professional Conference for Middle-School Girls.