Hard to believe it, but despite the sweltering heat and long summer days, it's time to go back to school.
Local elementary schools are preparing to welcome back students for the 2005-2006 school year with few changes other than new teachers in every school.
At Haycock Elementary, six new teachers will join the 40 returning educators to start the school year, said assistant principal Maureen Boland. The teachers will be placed in classrooms throughout the school, including the gifted and talent program.
"This is a great community school with a GT program," she said. The enrollment is expected to be slightly higher than last year's 628 students.
The school has seven trailers, Boland said, one of which is for the school's band and another is used for the ESOL program.
"We will be celebrating our 50th anniversary this year with a year-long celebration looking back at Haycock through the ages," she said. The festivities will begin with a kickoff party on Sept. 9 but other events are "still in the planning stages," she said.
"We want it to be a celebration but we want to show students how things have changed during the years. We're a work in progress," Boland said.
"We are a community-based school and we're focused on making sure a child grows academically and with a sense of hope," she said. "We focus on building lifelong learning."
Haycock Elementary School will have a back-to-school night on Sept. 15.
OVER AT CHESTERBROOK Elementary School, students can enjoy an education supplemented with lots of outdoor learning opportunities.
"We're really enjoying our discovery gardens," said Assistant Principal Bob Fuqua. "The PTO bought us new benches to put in the gardens, so we'll be able to hold more classes outside this year."
Additionally, a pond will allow science teachers to give their students a place to study creatures that live in or on water, and a bird feeder provides a place for birds to be watched and examined, he said.
"There's also a camera on the bird feeder to watch the birds come in, which is kind of neat," he said. A sculpture garden near the library features artwork created and designed by students, he said.
Several new computers were purchased for the computer lab, he said, and older ones will be moved into classrooms. "We have also been able to put some laptops into the downstairs computer lab," Fuqua said.
A back-to-school night has been scheduled for Sept. 20 and the school will be open on Sept. 2 to allow students to meet their teachers, he said. "We'll be open from 9:30 a.m. until 10:15 a.m. for morning kindergartners and from 10:15 a.m. until 11 a.m. for our afternoon students," he said.
Enrollment for the upcoming year is expect to be around 525 students, Fuqua said, about the same number of students as last year. There are 60 staff members including 21 classroom teachers, two administrators and three secretaries, he said.
"We're always looking for new and exciting things for our students, and we're continuing the push to be more inclusive to better serve all children in our neighborhood," he said.
FRANKLIN SHERMAN Elementary School celebrated its 90th anniversary last year and will finalize plans for a large renovation project slated to begin in 2006, said principal Marty Smith.
"There won't be any changes to the building this year," he said.
There will, however, be new faces, as 10 new teachers have joined the staff at the school, including resource teachers who will work in the physical education, ESOL, music and special education departments.
"We look to have four new staff members in preschool, second grade and the technology department," Smith said.
The school will continue to focus on character-building education this year, he said.
"We want to help our students make good choices in terms of behavior and ethics. We also hope to continue our partnership with the Safe Community Coalition, which helped us with our Ethics Day that we held in conjunction with Kent Gardens and Timberlane schools last year," Smith said.
Back-to-school night will be held on Sept. 12 and 13 this year, along with an International Night in March. The first PTA meeting of the year will be held on Sept. 28, he said.
"We are looking forward to a safe year. We want to make sure our students are learning and having a good time while at school," Smith said.
APPROXIMATELY 800 students will attend Spring Hill Elementary School this year, said assistant principal Shirley Long.
"We were awarded with a wildlife certification last year for our garden," she said, which science teachers enjoy using as an outdoor classroom for their students. "They do lots of things with plants and turtles and other animals that live there. The students plant corn, which is very pertinent to some of their lessons," she said.
There will be 14 new teachers at the school this year, for a total of 40 classroom educators, she said. "The new teachers will be in every grade level except sixth grade," she said.
With the exception of one trailer for the school's band, all students remain in the same building, Long said.
The school has incorporated a guided learning program which is a method of teaching reading comprehension, she said. "That's our big thrust for the upcoming school year — it helps everyone understand what's being taught," Long said.
On Aug. 31, a new parents night will be held to allow families who are new to the school to meet with student ambassadors and walk through the building, she said. A back-to-school night is scheduled for Sept. 14 starting at 6 p.m., and the school will host an open house from 2 to 3 p.m. on Sept. 1, even though students were introduced to their teachers in June.
ENROLLMENT NUMBERS have not been finalized but should remain around 900 students at Kent Gardens Elementary School, said Linda Baker, the school's registrar.
Fifteen new teachers have been hired to fill positions vacated by other teachers for the 2005-2006 school year, she said, and they will be incorporated throughout the school in kindergarten through sixth grades. There are no scheduled celebrations or new programs at the school.
CHURCHILL ROAD Elementary School will begin a partnership with the Kennedy Center, working to incorporate the arts in classrooms, said principal Don Hutzel.
Teachers will attend workshops at the Kennedy Center through the program, called Changing Education Through the Arts, he said. "We will have a big focus on integrating the arts into education and enhancing the education we provide our children through music and arts in the classroom. This is the first of a three-year cycle," he said. The school also has a partnership with the McLean Center for the Arts, which contributes to the school's ability to "go beyond the classroom walls."
Five new teachers will greet students, for a total of 29 classroom teachers, and there are also new gym and library teachers and an instructional assistant, Hutzel said.
Enrollment will be close to 700 students, an increase of about 20 students from last year, he said. Starting in the spring, a permanent modular unit, featuring 10 classrooms and complete with bathrooms, will be constructed to replace most of the school's eight trailers.
"We have an ongoing focus on providing the best instruction possible in a safe environment," Hutzel said of his goals for the upcoming year. "We're going to be meeting as a staff on a monthly basis to focus on creating a community within our school."
Students can also expect to benefit from the incorporation of butterfly and native plant gardens which allow them to learn about different types of plants that colonists and early settlers of Northern Virginia depended on to live, he said.
"Our goal is to maximize the learning opportunities for our children and take advantage of every opportunity for them," he said.