Sterling Elementary School has joined the 21st century with all of its restrooms now equipped with hot water.
Principal Michele Freeman said students also will welcome a cafeteria with a new ceiling, new lighting, and freshly painted acoustic panels. But none of these amenities will impress the students like the new $18,000 playground, complete with bouncers, slides and tunnels. They only had monkey bars before the Parent Teacher Association raised the money for the facility, which was installed Aug. 9.
Sterling Elementary School, built in 1964, lacked hot water in two sets of restrooms. Freeman attributed the problem to old piping.
Assistant Principal Andrew Davis said the bathroom dispensers contained anti-bacterial soap, and the teachers provided waterless hand sanitizing gel in the classroom.
David Goodfriend, director of the Loudoun County Department of Health, said the school took the right course of action by using antibacterial soap or gel. “The challenge is disease spreads very quickly in school,” he said. “Most diseases are spread by coughing on each other or having infection on their hands and passing it along to each other.
Having soap and water is sufficient if hot water is not available, he said. The school had hot water in the cafeteria, which Goodfriend said was essential, he said.
STERLING ELEMENTARY School is enhancing its focus on reading this year with a new Steps to Literacy program for kindergarten through second graders.
“We hope we will improve not only the SOLs (Standards of Learning) scores, but the skills the children gain to do a better a job in the latter grades, third, fourth and fifth,” Freeman said.
Under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Virginia must measure students’ progress in reading/language, arts and math. The testing mechanism is called the Standards of Learning.
Freeman described the literacy program as an early intervention program used to achieve “every child reading by the end of first grade.” The teachers were trained in the Steps to Literacy program strategies last year. “This year, they will fully implement them,” she said.
She said the school, which had to hire only three new teachers this year, will continue with its “Children First” theme.
“OUR TEACHERS are committed to do whatever it takes to help our students become successful,” she said. “If it means supporting them with after-school tutoring or mentoring, that’s what we’re doing. If it means engaging the community with business partnerships, we do that.”
One of the school’s partners is Dr. John Jones, an area dentist. He conducts free dental screening for all of the schools’ 415 students during American Dental Health Week. “We feel a healthy child is more available for learning,” Freeman said. “We want to feel like we’re catering to the whole child.’
The school also has business partners at the U.S. Geological Survey. They might work with students on a particular academic area or eat lunch with a group of students while helping to build their self esteem, she said. They also might work with a child to make sure he is doing his homework or meeting the expectations of his teacher. They offer resources and mini-discussions on various topics, including their specialty: mapping.
Freeman said she is looking forward to welcoming her new students and seeing a lot of the same faces. “Certainly, for the people who have been here for years and their families, it’s always a pleasure to get them into the swing of things,” she said. “We have set very high expectations and goals for academics this year.”