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Votes

No More Study Hall

Sterling high schools are trying alternatives to study halls.

Principals at Sterling's three high schools are replacing their traditional study halls with what they say is a more effective use of their students' time.

Park View High School Principal Anne Brooks said students will be introduced to a "Flex schedule." Flex is similar to study hall, except the size is smaller and students will flex back to two of their scheduled classes on a rotated basis. For example, students would go back to first and seventh periods to work with their two teachers or to study. They would spend 44 minutes with each teacher.

"They have a smaller, highly supervised study hall," she said. "They will be working with a content teacher for enrichment, remediation, to make up work, or do group work. It's a smaller, more productive study hall."

A content teacher is an instructor with expertise in one subject, such as math, English or science.

Brooks said the faculty voted to use the program after reviewing its effectiveness at other Loudoun and Fairfax schools. She predicted attendance, grades and standardized test scores would improve.

Park View is adding aerospace technology, advanced placement psychology, and a strings music program

"We're very fortunate to have a gentleman from Connecticut who is coming with the (aerospace technology) expertise," she said. Lawrence Farrell is one of 15 new teachers hired for the school year.

In addition, the school is implementing a transition program to assist students moving from special education into post graduation.

Plans to have a content teacher team teach with an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher were scrapped, because of an increase in first year ESL students. Brooks said there are nearly 200 ESL students this fall. The high school is expected to have an enrollment of 1,470 students.

PARK VIEW'S FOOTBALL program received an enhancement over the summer. "We were fortunate to get brand new bleachers and a press box," Brooks said. "We're very thrilled about that. It will be better for safety and security."

The bleachers will accommodate 800 to 1,000 more fans. "There were never enough seats for the visitors," she added. "We also got, for the first time, an indoor concession stand."

The days of the Patriots Club having to roll out carts for indoor game refreshment are over.

Park View's new theme will be, "A Better World, One Student at a Time." Brooks said her students have been very involved in building a caring community as volunteers. The theme, voted on by teachers and students, underscores that focus. "We also felt that given the world situation, we wanted to go global in doing good works," she said.

Brooks said Eunice Shriver, founder of the Community of Caring, visited the school in June, because she was impressed with the students' efforts.

Last year, the school's theme was "Opening Doors to the Future."

DOMINION High School, in its second year, will be enhancing many of the programs started in the fall of 2003, Principal John Brewer said. "When you are new like we are, everything was new last year," he said.

The school had no graduating class in June, because students opted to stay at Park View and Potomac Falls High Schools their senior year. With 300 new freshmen, the school's enrollment will rise from 700 to 1,000 students.

Brewer said preparing Dominion's first senior class, about 130 students, will present a lot of opportunities and challenges. "There is a whole set of things that a school has to do to prepare for the future that we didn't deal with last year."

The most useful tool, he said, is the Titan Time program, which replaces study hall. Dominion's mascot is the Titan. The program applies to all grades, but is particularly beneficial for the seniors. "It's study hall with a boost," he said. "The boost is when our students are in study hall, they go by team.

"All seniors go to study hall at the same time. We can help them with the college preparation process, and give them resources to prepare for the SATs for the final time. We have a very, very unique opportunity to help our seniors in a very direct way."

Brewer said the influx of freshmen and the loss of a few teachers resulted in the need to hire 30 new teachers for the coming school year.

Another new program at Dominion High School is a hands-on science class, funded by a grant from Dominion Virginia Power and the Loudoun Education Foundation. "Science with Sacajawea: Exploring SOLs with the Lewis and Clark Expedition" will model the science investigation skills of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark throughout the study of earth science and biology, he said. The program coincides with the 200th Anniversary of Lewis and Clark's journey. Students will compare the research conducted along the expedition with techniques and tools used by scientists today.

Sacajawea was the Native American Indian who accompanied Lewis and Clark.

Brewer said Dominion High school will continue to use its theme, "Promoting the Success of Each and Every Student."

"That's going to be our all-time game plan," he said.

POTOMAC FALLS High School Principal David Spage said a productive "resource time" will replace study hall. "What we are doing is asking teachers to make themselves available during this time. If you aren't teaching first period, the kids are going to be assigned to you," he said.

The teachers will serve as a resource for all of the 1,400 students. "If you need extra help, you should be seeking it out at this time," he said. "If we think you need help, we're going to be seeking you out."

Spage headed up Broad Run High School's flex schedule when he was assistant principal there. He became Potomac Falls' principal this year. The main reason the flex model worked at Broad Run was because the faculty supported it. "The teachers bought it into it," he said. "We are having conversations here about whether we want to do the flex model. But we haven't had enough time to reflect on it."

Another new program is targeted at students who have missed too much school or assignments. "We are identifying some of these before they come in," he said. Students were chosen based on middle school records and discussions.

"We are going to start a student support team," he said. "Administrators and counselors will meet once a month to discuss discipline and absences.

"We want to start having advocates that are going to make contact with these kids. Why are you missing school? Why are you being sent out of class? What are we going to do to change this behavior? We are going to be monitoring very closely."

Spage hired 18 new teachers for the start of the school year. Students will notice a resurfaced parking lot and a new gym door when they return Sept. 7.