Break out the sparkling cider: both McLean and Langley High Schools will be celebrating anniversaries this year.
AT LANGLEY, the school will be celebrating its 40th year of educating students from Great Falls and McLean, said principal William Clendaniel.
"We've had a committee working on activities for several months now," he said, adding that the school is eagerly awaiting details as to what the celebrations will entail.
"We hope to tie the anniversary in with different activities throughout the year," said Layton Lawlor, an AP government teacher at Langley.
In addition, she said she has been working with a group of students to gather ideas for ways to celebrate the anniversary and, although nothing has been planned as of yet, she expects things to take off once school begins.
"We'd like to invite our alums to come back and celebrate with us," she said. "Langley doesn't currently have an alumni association, so we're hoping to build one this year."
The school is hoping to have a "big event" in the spring, Lawlor said, but details are still to be finalized. "There's a lot up in the air right now, but we have a team of students ready to start work as soon as school starts."
The start of a new school year brings the opportunity to continue to "build on past successes," Clendaniel said, ranging from the classroom to the athletic field. "We've had record numbers of kids trying out for football this year."
Academically, the school has "achieved a record number of students passing the AP tests. They've scored higher than they ever had," Clendaniel said. "We still have a little work to do on the SOL tests, but the results haven't been finalized yet."
The school will be welcoming 26 new teachers to replace those who have either retired or moved from the area.
"We lost about 135 combined years of experience with the loss of four teachers that were institutions here at Langley," Clendaniel said.
However, he has high hopes for the new crop of teachers, saying, "The assistant principal and department chairs have done an excellent job finding good people. The quality of teachers here is phenomenal. There's unlimited potential."
There will not be any physical changes to the school, but planning for a 16-room addition will begin this school year, he said, to better accommodate the 2,018 students enrolled for the upcoming year. "This is the most kids we've seen here since the late 1980s or early 1990s," he said. "The big question will be where to put the addition. The problem is all these bodies in these little hallways. It's getting crowded."
The school will continue to work in a professional learning environment with "small learning communities," he said. "We started a ninth-grade team last year and hope to add another 10th-grade team this year to help the students achieve more."
Clendaniel hopes to foster a spirit of social responsibility at the school in the upcoming year. "I'm troubled by a nation-wide trend of an increased use of alcohol and drugs by teenagers," he said. "They like to think and act like adults when they shouldn't be. I'd like to see responsibility for personal behavior taken to an additional dimension this year," he said.
An open house for new students and rising freshmen and their families will be held on Sept. 1, and back-to-school nights have been scheduled on Sept. 28 for ninth and 10th grades and Oct. 6 for 11th and 12th grades, he said. Homecoming will be Friday, Oct. 14, when the Saxons will play Lake Braddock.
AT MCLEAN, students, faculty and staff will use the weekend of Oct. 21-23 to celebrate their school's 50th anniversary.
"Our celebration has been in the planning stages since last September, and we've been meeting every two weeks as a group for a while now," said Demby Banbury, assistant director of student activities. "On Friday, we'll be hosting our first golf tournament at Reston National Country Club in Reston, and in the evening we'll have a bonfire and tailgate-like party with lots of food. We're working on having the school open for some tours and we're trying to coordinate for some of the alumni to join the performing arts groups."
On Saturday, there will be more tours of the building, followed by the homecoming football game and a gala event for alumni at the Fairview Marriott, featuring two bands, two disc jockeys and "heavy desserts and heavy hours d'oeuvres," Banbury said. "We're also working on having a Taste of McLean during the football game with local restaurants. The gala will be a major fund-raiser for the school and we hope to have a really relaxed atmosphere so everyone can enjoy themselves."
A few smaller commemorative events may be planned throughout the year, she said, but no other details have been made. More information on the McLean 50th anniversary celebration is available on the committee's Web site, www.mclean50.com.
During the homecoming game, the Highlanders will be playing a team from Stonebridge, a school in Loudoun County, said Paul Wardinski, the school's principal.
"This will be a really exciting weekend for us. We're trying to get some of the old principals to come back and enjoy it with us," he said.
The school finished a renovation project last year, and some final improvements like new lights above the stage and bleachers in the gymnasium are being finalized before the start of the 2005-2006 school year, he said.
Abe Jeffers will start his tenure as the school's new assistant principal, Wardinski said, coming from the Baltimore County school system. "We're really excited to have him join us on the staff," he said.
Also new at McLean this year will be 20 new staff members and teachers, including an assessment coach who will "look at test scores and analyze data to help our students continue to improve academically," he said.
In an attempt to further improve academic achievement, Wardinski said the school will begin a new program of starting school at 8 a.m. on Fridays to allow for teachers to meet as a professional learning community during the first half of the year and to provide academic help for students during the second half of the year.
"The whole county is doing a push for the professional learning community, but we can't keep putting everything after school because our teachers are being inundated with after-school activities," he said. "We need to make time during the day for the teachers to meet. Also, there are a lot of students who can't stay after school for extra help because of their after-school activities, so we need to do something to help them out."
By freeing up the 40 minutes each Friday morning before school starts and working toward a better learning environment for teachers and students, "everyone should benefit," Wardinski said. "We want to continue down a path of teacher collaboration and increased student achievement."
The school has made its Adequate Yearly Progress benchmark for the No Child Left Behind initiative, he said, and only 3 percent of students failed the Standards of Learning tests given in the spring. "We're very proud of our staff and students. We're trying to start giving as many tests online as possible so we can get results back sooner and remediate students who need help a little quicker," he said.
McLean High School has a back to school night planned for Sept. 22 for all students, from 7 to 9:30 p.m. An open house has not been scheduled. There will be a new student orientation on Sept. 2 starting at 9 a.m., he said.