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Elementary Schools Gear Up

Schools prepare for first day.

As summer camps end and parents start organizing the neighborhood carpool, elementary-school staff members are already preparing the hallways for the hundreds of students that are about to descend on them Sept. 7.

"This is going to be a terrific year," said Lucinda Romberg, principal of Dranesville Elementary School. "It's an election year, so we'll have the opportunity to work with students and teach them about the electoral process."

Romberg said she is looking forward to this year for numerous reasons, including a new preschool program that will be offered for children with autism. The program is called PAC, and the school has dedicated one classroom for the children to use.

The school also has a new business partnership with the Northwest Federal Credit Union. Romberg said this partnership is important because the credit union is "helping the school reach the goal of all students achieving at a higher level."

"We have a fabulous faculty," said Romberg, adding the school is welcoming new staff at almost every grade level, and many more new students, with an approximate enrollment at 775.

Important dates for parents to know include the kindergarten orientation Wednesday, Sept. 1, at 6:30 p.m.; and Thursday, Sept. 2, at 10:30 a.m., all students and their families are welcome to walk through, find their classrooms and meet their teachers.

Dranesville Elementary School is located at 1515 Powells Tavern Place.

CLEARVIEW ELEMENTARY is expanding it's Gifted ad Talented program this year to one more grade. Last year the school offered the GT program to third and fourth graders and this year they have added fifth grade to the list. The school is also continuing its focus on the Responsive Classroom approach to learning, where social components are taught in conjunction with academic curriculum. To help continue the school's efforts to educate the 520 students enrolled this year, the staff welcomes 12 new educators.

The school is also establishing an Early Head Start Program that is the first of its kind to be housed in a public school in Fairfax County. The program will begin in late September and will serve students from 6-weeks-old to 3-years-old.

The physical structure of Hutchison Elementary is already being altered for the upcoming school year. The school, which has just begun what is projected to be a two-year remodeling, is surrounded by bull-dozers, chain-link fences and dirt as an administration office and more classrooms are added to both sides. Despite the construction, principal Sheila Kearney, said she and staff are excited for this year's projected 630 students to partake in the various new programs and new equipment. The school has three new "mobile labs," computer labs containing laptops that are easily moved from one classroom to the next.

"Teachers are all working at the inquiry method [with learning]," said Kearney. "The laptop mobile labs ... can roll right into the classroom and students can go to them and look up questions for what they are learning about."

Kearney said the school has hired Adriana Reynolds as the new ESOL teacher, adding there may be some more future hires. She also said the school is partaking in its third year of Leadership Empowering Assessing and Developing, or LEAD, which is a leadership program geared toward building leadership in staff and students. The school is also going to house Marymount University interns later in the year for six weeks, so that the students are given a "chance to experience a different school culture," said Kearney.

Open house will be held Thursday, Sept. 2, with the class list posted at 10:30 a.m. in the cafeteria, from 11 a.m.-noon, families can meet their teachers and find their new classrooms.

Parents can go online to see what supplies their students may need for the first day of school at www.fcps.edu, click on schools & centers, and pick the appropriate school. Parents should also be aware that some students may have homework before the first day of school, and can find that online as well.

FLORIS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL has started a new tradition this year of informing students of their teachers and rooms before the first day. Kindergartners will receive their letters after Aug. 16, and grades one through six after Aug. 30.

Principal Karen Siple said the school is also holding a reception with families this year. The reception will be Sept. 3, at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., and an open house will be held from 10 - 11 a.m. for students and their families with the last names A-M, and then 1-2 p.m. for last names N-Z.

"We're very excited for the debut," said Siple of the completion of the ongoing renovation to the school after the roof collapsed in 2002. "We're right down to the wire, completing classrooms."

Siple added that along with the new gym, cafeteria and classrooms supplied with new furniture, the school also has a new ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) program as well as an extra classroom for the School Aged Child Care program, or SACC.

"We're doubling the size of SACC," said Siple, explaining the program allows for parents to drop off their children before school on their way to work, or pick them up after school on their way home. "The kids in the [half-day] kindergarten can go there for the rest of the afternoon until their parents can pick them up."

Siple said that Floris is expecting around 800-plus students, including the half-day kindergarten.

Floris Elementary School is located at 2708 Centreville Road.

HERNDON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL principal Carolyn Gannaway said her last-minute prep work before the first day of school is making sure the school is fully staffed, noting there are no new programs being added.

"We do have a new first-grade teacher," said Gannaway, "but we don't have a lot of new things. We're just looking forward to another great year."

Gannaway said that the school will continue its existing ESOL and Saturday Excel tutoring programs, adding the school expects around 725 students.

Herndon Elementary School's kindergarten open house for families to come see their student's classroom and meet their teacher is Thursday, Sept. 2, at 9:30 a.m., and for grades one through six at 3 p.m. The school's back-to-school night, where parents meet with teachers to see what their child will learn during the year, will be Sept. 20.

Herndon Elementary School is located at 630 Dranesville Road.

McNAIR ELEMENTARY SCHOOL will be ready to show off it's recent addition Sept. 7, said principal Susan Benezra.

"We have a new addition and we're excited about it opening," said Benezra.

Benezra also said the school will offer many opportunities to its 1,050 students thanks to the three new business partnerships it has entered with Cox Communications, Best Software and Kaiser Permanente.

Benezra said the school will offer many programs for students including a morning chess club, a morning girls' computer club, a morning jump rope club, and afternoon homework buddies program where students are paired up with teachers to help tutor them and an ESOL program.

She added that a full-time gifted and talented teacher will teach an abstract thinking math class to all students so that everyone will get the chance to take a gifted course. She said the school also has a new special-education teacher, whose focus is in emotional disabilities, and who will be a resource not only to the special-education department but also the school as a whole.

"We're looking forward to implementing these programs and our new business partnerships," said Benezra. "We're also looking forward to working with the individual achievements of students on a more frequent basis."

Benezra said the school also welcomes second assistant principal, Robin Mentzer, and assistant principal intern, Maria Bennink.

McNair Elementary School is located at 2499 Thomas Jefferson Drive.