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Larger Population; New Programs

Loudoun County has made a few changes in elementary-school hours and programs for the upcoming school year, starting Aug. 29.

Elementary schools will start the school day 10 minutes earlier, at 7:50 a.m., and close 10 minutes later, at 3:25 p.m., the same times as the secondary schools. “We wanted to give as much class time as possible,” said spokesman for Loudoun County Public Schools Wayde B. Byard.

A number of schools had their supply of Macintosh computers replaced with Dell computers this year.

“It operates better with the system we use,” Byard said.

Loudoun County has also instituted a new reading series by Houghton Mifflin for kindergarten to fifth grade, as part of its textbook re-adoption cycle, which occurs every six years.

In addition, the Foreign Language in Elementary School program will be expanded to include the fifth grade.

To accommodate the influx of new residents and new students, Loudoun, the fastest-growing school division in Virginia, will open three new elementary schools in Ashburn this fall: Legacy, Newton-Lee and Pinebrook.

ALGONKIAN Elementary School has been undergoing renovations over the summer, said Principal Heidi Latham. A new roof was constructed, the carpeting was taken out and replaced with tiles, the gymnasium and cafeteria were re-painted, and new lighting was put in all the classrooms. “The physical environment has really changed,” Latham said.

Although enrollment has remained about the same as last year, new staff has been hired for every grade level except fourth grade. In addition, a new attendance secretary and a new clinic aide have joined the Algonkian staff. The new staff will be introduced to the students at the annual pep rally at the beginning of the school year, Latham said. The staff will return to school on Aug. 18 to begin working on the school improvement plan for the upcoming school year, which has been given the theme “believe.”

The school will be initiating the county’s Steps to Literacy program for kindergarten to second grades. The PTA has provided additional resources, such as leveled readers for the students’ enrichment. “Our PTA is very supportive of that in our book room,” Latham said.

COUNTRYSIDE Elementary School has added six new staff members who have taken teaching positions in the third, fourth and fifth grades and special education.

The number of students enrolled at Countryside has risen by 50 students to 550 this year. “We are a little bit larger than last year,” said Assistant Principal Carol Winters.

Countryside has a new addition to its courtyard. Last week, Drew Barton, a 15-year-old Eagle Scout, built a butterfly garden and habitat, which includes benches and a picnic table. Winters said the children will use the habitat to learn about butterfly growth and development.

Back-to-School Night, for parents, was scheduled for Aug. 23 in the evening. Open House, for the children, is scheduled for Aug. 26, from 9 to 10 a.m.

Near the beginning of the school year, students may expect to attend an assembly with James Wando, as part of the Bluemont Series, said Winters. “He speaks to kids about making friends and how to prevent the kids from being bullied,” Winters said.

The Countryside PTO also scheduled a bingo for Sept. 3.

FOREST GROVE Elementary School has been busy winning awards lately. In late June, they received a plaque from the Loudoun County Maintenance Department at an annual banquet for the school’s custodial work in building and grounds maintenance. Last year, the cafeteria staff received a five-star rating from the Food Services Department in Loudoun County. “We do a lot because we know how important nutrition is to academics,” said Principal Nancy P. Torresgrossa.

Over the past year, the school cafeteria staff built up its breakfast and exercise programs. At 7:40 a.m., 20 minutes prior to the start of school, students would participate in a jogging club. Torresgrossa said the club’s starting time should change this year because of the countywide change in the schools’ start time.

The cafeteria started a breakfast club and would take pictures of the students who came to eat and listen to music before school started. The cafeteria has also hosted family breakfast days. “We’d like to continue with an emphasis on physical fitness and nutrition,” Torresgrossa said.

The school decided to apply the Four-Square Writing Method, which Torresgrossa described as “a way to help students organize their thoughts,” to the whole school. “Some of the teachers tried it and really liked it so we decided to go schoolwide,” Torresgrossa said.

Forest Grove’s Macintosh computers were replaced with Dell computers for the upcoming year. A new third-grade teacher and two new fifth-grade teachers have been added to the Forest Grove staff, along with a couple of support staff who will help with art classes and physical education.

The number of students enrolled at Forest Grove has held steady at around 600 students.

Torresgrossa said she misses the students and the clamor of the school day. “They’re like little sponges," she said. They love to learn. …It’s been quiet over the summer without them.”

GUILFORD Elementary School has hired three new teachers and is waiting for confirmation on the last teacher, said Principal Deborah C. Cookus. The positions that have or will be filled are for first and fifth grade, and two for special education.

A major change at the school, Cookus said, will be implementation of the new Steps to Literacy program for kindergarten to second grade.

In the next three weeks, faculty will be developing new goals for the upcoming year based on the students’ test scores, Cookus said. “We probably won’t change a lot because we’re happy with what we’re seeing,” she said.

HORIZON Elementary School has hired seven new full-time teachers for the second and fourth grades, in addition to two itinerant teachers, said Principal William H. Raye. The itinerant teachers, one who teaches music and the other who works as a guidance counselor, will split their time with another school. A third itinerant teacher, who teaches art, may also join the Horizon staff. A new guidance counselor has also been hired.

Enrollment, which will be between 735 and 740 students, is similar to last year, Raye said.

The only difference in programs this year is the expansion of the foreign language program to include fifth grade. “It’s more or less what we’ve done every year,” Raye said.

The new LOWES ISLAND Elementary School principal, Bruce Shafferman, hails from Bedford County in central Virginia, where he served as a principal for 20 years. The school also welcomes 17 new teachers this year. “We’re very, very happy about having these folks here with us,” Shafferman said.

The school’s enrollment is presently at 635 students, down slightly from last year, Shafferman said.

Lowes Island has brought in new office furniture this year and a book-binding machine, which the staff is currently using to bind the student-parent handbooks. Shafferman said the new machine will be used to publish students’ books. Students in all grades will participate.

“It’s just a wonderful opportunity for the children to put these things into print,” he said.

Shafferman said he will focus on the reading program this year, as well as prepare the students to perform better on the Standards of Learning tests. He said he is excited about the parental support at Lowes Island and is looking forward to working with the teachers and parents.

MEADOWLAND Elementary School now has an English-as-a-Second-Language program on-site and has hired an ESL teacher, said Principal Laura Seck. Two reading teachers who were at the school a couple years ago have come back. One art teacher, one kindergarten teacher and one multiple-disabilities teacher have also been added to the staff. The enrollment has stayed the same, hovering around 480 and 500 students, Seck said. The staff is currently being trained to implement the new Steps to Literacy program for kindergarten to second grade. The school will continue with their guided reading program and are working on a school improvement plan, Seck said.

POTOWMACK Elementary School’s motto is “going above and beyond,” said Principal Janet Radcliffe.

“We want to go above and beyond for every one of our little kiddies,” she said. This year, the staff expects to go above and beyond as they focus on the Steps to Literacy program for kindergarten through second grade and writing for third through fifth grade. For the upcoming school year, one second-grade teacher, three resource teachers and an assistant principal have joined the Potowmack staff. Potowmack has been decked out with brand-new Dell computers, as well as 40 wireless laptop computers, which will be used in all grades, Radcliffe said. The laptops will be kept in the fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms. Radcliffe said she expects the teachers will use the laptops to aid in research projects and science experiments, among other class assignments.

The school building has had the stucco redone on the exterior. The doors have also been re-painted.

“It looks beautiful,” Radcliffe said.

Radcliffe said she is excited about seeing the teachers and students within the school again. “There’s not a better feeling in the world than opening up a school year,” she said.

ROLLING RIDGE Elementary School welcomes nine new teachers for the first, second, fourth and fifth grades and the English-as-a-Second-Language program, said Melinda Carper, the school's principal.

Rolling Ridge will be continuing its Steps to Literacy program, which was implemented last year.

New carpet was laid out in the main office and library, a new cooling system was installed and some of the classrooms were re-painted.

Enrollment remains at 400 students.

Carper said the teachers will look at the data from the Standards of Learning scores to decide what to focus on.

"We're just going to continue working on our instruction and our SOL scores," Carper said.

The PTA has volunteered to stuff the information packets.

"They volunteer their time so the teachers don't have to," Carper said. "And that's always nice."

The school is waiting on a bond issue referendum this November to get an allocation of about $13 million approved for renovating the school.

STERLING Elementary School has hired five new teachers. One part-time kindergarten teacher, one second-grade teacher, one fourth-grade teacher, one special-education teacher and one resource teacher have joined the Sterling staff. The fourth-grade-teacher position was added by Loudoun County this year. “It’s a position for growth,” said Principal Michele Freeman.

Enrollment is at 425 students, a little over last year’s count of 400 at the beginning of the school year and 417 at the end. “I have a feeling we haven’t enrolled everybody yet,” said Freeman, about the current number of students enrolled. The school will be continuing with its Steps to Literacy program, initiated last year, for kindergarten through second grade, and the balanced literary program for third through fifth grade. Freeman said Sterling’s goal is “to continue to raise the level of achievement.” The school will focus on improving reading and math skills to help students perform better on the Standards of Learning tests. An open house is scheduled for Aug. 26, from 1 to 2 p.m., for first through fifth grades; 9 a.m. for a.m. kindergarten and 11 a.m. for p.m. kindergarten. Back-to-School Night is scheduled for Sept. 15.

SUGARLAND Elementary School will be adding a new playground this year, after the school received a Community Development Block Grant in the spring and raised money through various means, such as a raffle for a trip to Disney World. The principal and assistant principal also raised $1,100 for daring to eat a cicada. The playground’s construction is set for Aug. 23. “We are hoping to have the playground ready for the first week of school,” said Principal Jennifer Ostrowski. The classrooms’ heating and air conditioning units have all been replaced with brand-new units. In addition, the office, gymnasium and cafeteria were re-painted and the front of the school was landscaped. “We’re ready,” Ostrowski said. “We look good.” The school continues with its Steps-to-Literacy program for kindergarten through second grades, full-day kindergarten program, English-as-a-Second-Language program, early-childhood special-education program and elementary math resource teacher. “We have a very busy school,” Ostrowski said. Enrollment is at 496 students this year, about the same as last year, Ostrowski said.

Sugarland is waiting for voters’ approval of $14 million for a new gymnasium and the addition of six classrooms in November’s bond referendum.

SULLY Elementary School will be adding five new teachers: one second-grade teacher, one third-

grade teacher, one full-day kindergarten teacher and four special-education resource teachers. Throughout the year, the PTO will be focusing on raising money to build a new playground because the old equipment has become outdated, said Principal Clark Bowers. Sully will also be partnering with Middleburg Bank to help students learn about saving and investing money. This year, Bowers said the staff at Sully will be placing a “heavy emphasis” on reading and math, which are the foundations for other academic subjects. “Those two areas are critical,” Bowers said.

The PTO is planning a cookout in the courtyard, scheduled for Sept. 8, for families of Sully students. Last year, the school added the Steps to Literacy program and math resource teachers. “This year, we’re just going to build on those programs that were already established,” Bowers said.