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Get Ready, Get Set, Go

Area elementary schools gear up for upcoming school year.

With a new school year come changes to a school's physical plant or curriculum. Below are descriptions of what some area elementary schools have planned for their students for 2003-04:

BONNIE BRAE ELEMENTARY

Ten new teachers arrive at Bonnie Brae. The school also has a new assistant principal, Kathy Bruce, who came from Orange Hunt Elementary School in Springfield. Back-to-School Night is Tuesday, Sept. 9, at 7 p.m., for grades one to three, and Thursday, Sept. 11, at 7 p.m., for kindergarten, and grades four to six. Enrollment is at 917.

LAUREL RIDGE ELEMENTARY

Students will have to work while renovations continue at Laurel Ridge. Work will be completed in the summer of 2004. Rebecca Gannon is a new assistant principal this year. Back-to-School Nights are on Thursday, Sept. 11, for kindergarten; Tuesday, Sept. 16, for grades one through three; and Thursday, Sept. 18, for grades four through six. The program begins at 7 each night. Student enrollment at Laurel Ridge is 801.

FAIRFAX VILLA ELEMENTARY

Fairfax Villa's 425 students will welcome two new teachers this school year. Marla Makowka will be teaching sixth grade, while Rebecca Yerman will be teaching fourth grade. The school will also have a new cafeteria manager, Surjeet Matharoo.

Fairfax Villa was recently awarded a capacity grant that provides training funds for staff to explore ways to include more students with disabilities in school activities, said principal Jeffrey Clark.

On SOLs, pass rates increased on eight of the nine tests.

"Passing the SOLs means we will again celebrate with 'Hooray for Diffendoofer Day,'" Clark said.

FAIRHILL ELEMENTARY

Not only will the Fairhill community welcome new incoming students on the first week of school, they'll meet their new principal as well. Patricia Phillips, who came from Daniels Run in Fairfax City, starts her new role at Fairhill during the 2003-04 school year.

"This is such a wonderful school and such a wonderful staff," Phillips said. "They have really made a very smooth transition for me."

Nine new staff members are also among the new faces at Fairhill, according to Ann Billingsley, assistant principal. Also new are two classrooms for the deaf program, made from a large classroom that the program had been using.

Several students within Fairhill's student population of about 525 will participate in the "First Friends" program, which pairs older students with kindergartners to show them the ropes. The school will also continue the Family Literacy Program, which is an initiative that emphasizes guided reading.

"Bulletin boards are up. We're ready to go," Billingsley said.

MOSBY WOODS ELEMENTARY

The Mosby Woods Elementary community can expect to see some changes for the new school year, according to principal Laura Shibles. The school will host a Gifted and Talented (GT) Center, open to third-graders this year and other grades the following years. Six new teachers will be among the new faces at Mosby Woods, and enrollment so far is at 560 students.

The school will get two additional trailers, bringing the trailer count up to four trailers.

Mosby Woods will continue several programs that it had started recently. In their second year are a full-day kindergarten as well as the implementation of a Changing Education through the Arts (CEDA) grant offered by the Kennedy Center. The grant, which focuses on staff development as well as extra resources for the students, will allow students to create a school museum in March. Teachers will integrate the museum's artifacts into their curriculum.

The school will continue to receive Title I funding, which provides additional resources for students challenged in learning. Mosby Woods also updated its math curriculum for the 2003-04 school year.

"It's always exciting for teachers to work with parents on the curriculum because in that way parents can be supportive about the curriculum," Shibles said.

OAK VIEW ELEMENTARY

Students at Oak View Elementary have several new changes to look forward to this upcoming school year. Oak View has a new track and a new painted mural of the United States, and the school is looking to start on Phase 2 of the playground with leftover money raised from the track and the PTA.

Additions include a second noncategorical special-education program and a fourth kindergarten class.

These are some of the changes in store for Oak View’s student population, which grew from 673 students last year to 710 students this year, according to principal Debra Lane.

Oak View will also continue increasing technology-savvy instruction in class. The school will be getting two new smartboards, which are like interactive whiteboards, and several new flexcams. All teachers will be using Blackboard.com, an interactive homework Web site, and in January, teachers will be getting laptops from the county.

New for this year is Oak View’s use of the professional-learning-communities model, which schedules time during the school day for teachers of the same grade to discuss curriculum and assess students’ needs and capabilities. The discussions should help students continue to achieve high SOL test marks. The third grade tested at the 97th and 98th projectiles last year, Lane said.

PROVIDENCE ELEMENTARY

Several new changes are in store for the 754 students at Providence Elementary in 2003-04. There will be five new teachers, as well as a new preschool special-education program. A first grade has been added, and the Gifted and Talented teacher will come to Providence three times a week instead of two.

Also new to Providence are two wireless labs, each with wireless laptops, installed over the summer and paid for by Fairfax City funds. One lab will have math software for math classes. The technology team will have the other lab, with teachers reserving the tools when they need them. Providence will continue some instructional programs that it began in previous years. As a professional development school affiliated with George Mason University, Providence will have four new interns, a new student teacher and an administrative intern.

Last year’s after-school math program, "Challenge 24," will have a PTA-sponsored online component. The PTA will also sponsor the Chess Club. Other continuing activities are Project Lead for curriculum development, and the use of Blackboard.com, a Web site where students and parents can access homework assignments online.

In terms of instruction, Providence has redefined the resource teachers’ roles in technology, science and math. In addition to serving as a resource for classroom teachers on those subjects, resource teachers will also be doing item analysis on trends in SOL scores using special software that looks at individual and overall scores. That analysis will help teachers when they meet under the professional-learning-communities model, which Providence will continue to use this school year.

The four goals of the model are to map curriculum, determine what students need to know, assess whether they know the material, and determine what should be done if the student hasn’t mastered the concept. To discuss these goals, the school has scheduled time for teachers of the same grade and discipline to meet during the school day.

"There’s always an element of professionalism. ... You’re constantly revisiting what else can you do," said principal Joy Hanbury.