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Elementary Schools Get Ready

Several local elementary schools have added new programs, new teachers and new activities for this fall.

When Reston's eight elementary schools open their doors next Tuesday, many of the children will be greeted by new faces, new academic programs and new after-school activities.

Principals and administrators from each elementary school said last week they are looking forward to another school year and highlighted a few things that will be different this fall.

ALDRIN

There will be several new educators at Aldrin Elementary School this year, with 16 new teachers and instructional assistants, said the school's principal Marty Marinoff.

But the biggest change this year, Marinoff said, is the addition of a full-time Gifted and Talented specialist to help teach and identify unusually gifted children for advanced classes at Aldrin or a GT center.

"It's certainly going to benefit everyone and go toward making sure we provide a quality gifted education for all students," Marinoff said.

The new GT specialist, Chris Lewis, will also work with Aldrin's other teachers to help implement a GT-oriented instructional strategy for all students.

"She's going to be a great on-site resource for teachers," Marinoff said.

ARMSTRONG

For years, Armstrong Elementary School has been divided into two schools — one for the general education students and the other a center for students with emotional disabilities. This year, the two schools will combine administrators and financial resources in an attempt to unify the school.

"We're trying to make everyone feel like it's one school," said Kate Blakeman, the school's administrative assistant to the principal. "Hopefully everyone will work together better."

Despite bringing down the wall between the main school and its center, the two groups of students will still not mix particularly much, Blakeman said.

Also this year, Armstrong has added six new teachers and a new assistant principal, Colin McNamara, who comes to the school from Marshall Road Elementary School in Vienna.

DOGWOOD

Despite being sanctioned under the No Child Left Behind Act for not meeting targets two years in a row, Dogwood Elementary School administrators are optimistic they will raise achievement among all students this year.

Because too few students in the economically-disadvantaged demographic passed the Virginia Standards of Learning English test last year, Dogwood became one of two schools in the county to offer its students the choice to transfer to another school. So far, fewer than 20 students out of 647 decided to leave.

"Parents have come out in droves to tell us what a good school we are," said Dogwood's Principal Ricki Harvey, who was named Virginia's Distinguished Elementary School Principal of the Year last spring.

This year, test score requirements will be increased substantially, leaving schools like Dogwood facing particularly tough challenges. If Dogwood fails to meet its goals this year, the school will be forced to replace staff members and overhaul its instructional strategy.

Following a modified-calendar school, Dogwood classes are already in session.

FOREST EDGE

When asked "What's new?" at Forest Edge Elementary School, it seems every administrator at the school says the same thing.

"This place looks like a bomb went off," said Principal Frank Bensinger, referring to the extensive $14 million renovation the school is undergoing. "But we hope we'll be ready before school starts."

The renovation will not be completed until next year, but workers are scrambling to finish up several new classrooms and clean up the school's hallways, currently filled with construction equipment.

Starting this year, 20 new classrooms will be opened, though students in grades four through six will be taught in trailers. The new classrooms will be state-of-the-art, Bensinger said, with high-speed computers, laser printers and SmartBoard technology, which is an interactive whiteboard.

Also, Forest Edge is adding full-day kindergarten this year, giving children longer instruction time.

HUNTERS WOODS

Having just completed a three-year renovation, Hunters Woods Elementary School for the Arts and Sciences is planning a dedication ceremony this fall.

Also, the school is opening an English Speakers of Other Languages program this year, which will add approximately 65 students.

"We're very excited about the opportunity to expand the diversity of our already diverse community," said Principal Stephen Hockett. "It's going to be cool having them in the building. It adds a whole new dynamic to the school.

Plus, Hunters Woods, an arts and sciences magnet school, has hired six new staff members this year.

Last year, Hunters Woods students painted "Periwinkle," a panda sculpture that is part of the Panda Mania exhibit on display in Washington, D.C. This fall, Hockett said he hopes the school will be able to purchase the panda at an upcoming fundraising auction to be kept on display at the school.

LAKE ANNE

Lake Anne Elementary School is wrapping up a renovation project that has added a new wing and completely changed how the front of the school appears.

Workers over the summer revamped the school's parking lot and kiss and ride and finished work on the new wing, which features nine new classrooms, a teachers' lounge, conference room and a work room.

Apart from the construction, the school's principal, Michelle Padgett, said she is most excited about the addition of full-day kindergarten at the school.

Lake Anne was added to the list of schools to receive funds for full-day kindergarten after the General Assembly voted to increase sales tax in Virginia. That tax increase gave school officials a budgetary windfall, which they used to add full-day K at nine elementary schools and other proven programs throughout the county.

"We're looking forward to another great year," Padgett said.

SUNRISE VALLEY

Sunrise Valley Elementary School is planning an extravaganza this fall to celebrate the school's 25th anniversary.

On Nov. 13, the school will hold an open house, invite alumni, and showcase students' talent at a ceremony marking the milestone, said the school's principal Beth English.

"We're getting all spiffed up for the anniversary," she said.

This fall will also see the addition of four new teachers at Sunrise Valley, along with a new assistant principal, Melanie Stanley, who was an elementary school social studies specialist.

Also starting this year, Sunrise Valley girls will have the opportunity to join a new running club, called "Girls on the Run."

"The mission of this club is to prepare girls for a lifetime of self-respect and healthy living," English said.

Because Sunrise Valley was designated a "receiving school," 15 students who chose to leave Dogwood will attend Sunrise Valley this year.

TERRASET

Terraset Elementary School is seeking to become a Primary Years Program school, which is a program affiliated with the International Baccalaureate program already used by South Lakes High School and Langston Hughes Middle School.

Principal Ellen Cury said that implementing a PYP curriculum would give the school a more global perspective and enhance the education of all the school's students.

"All of the teachers are very excited about this," she said. "It really champions our diversity."

Throughout this year, the school will continue to train its teachers about PYP and will seek approval for funding from the school board next spring.

Also this year, the school has hired four new teachers and an assistant principal, Shane Wolf, who previously worked at Bonnie Brae Elementary School in Fairfax.

The school's PTA is offering two new after-school activities for Terraset students this year — a chess club and a Lego club.