On a typical Friday morning, the halls of South County Secondary School are filled with students talking and laughing with their friends, rushing to class and anticipating the weekend.
On Friday, Nov. 4, the halls were more subdued, filled with parents, guidance counselors and faculty members, discussing grades, reading report cards and waiting for short conferences.
To mark the end of the first quarter, Principal Dale Rumberger and his staff opened the school from 7:30-10 a.m. for the R. U. OK? Corral, giving parents a chance to pick up report cards a few days early and talk with teachers about their child's progress.
"I'm concerned about my son's grades and I want to meet his teachers," said Christina Ramirez, a Fairfax Station mother who has one child at the school and appreciated the chance to have all his teachers in one place at the same time.
"It's a big advantage," she said. "With this being a new school, I haven't met some of his teachers yet."
Parents have had the opportunity to briefly meet teachers during back to school nights in September, but had the opportunity for five-minute mini-conferences with each teacher in the course of the morning, said Karen Lowder, an administrative intern for Rumberger.
"The guidance department gave ample notice to parents so they could come in and pick up their child's report cards and talk with their teachers," she said.
MESSAGES WERE also sent home by e-mail and notices from teachers and bus drivers, she said. The steady stream of parents who came to the school seemed to prove that the message had gotten out.
"It's fantastic to see so many parents here," Lowder said.
Teachers and parents have a good communication system already established, said parent Linda Hricz of Fairfax Station, who wasn't expecting any surprises on her two children's report cards.
"Their teachers are really good about e-mailing and they're extremely willing to work with me," she said.
Adjusting to the new school — Hricz's children had previously attended Hayfield Secondary — has been easy as well. "There's been no complaints from the kids, there hasn't been any disruption or problems at all," she said.
A letter was sent home to parents on Oct. 7 notifying them of the R.U. OK? Corral, which was scheduled for Friday because of the Veterans Day holiday, said Jane Lipp, director of student services in the high school.
"We figured a lot of parents would be off from work and would be able to drop by, or could come in before going to work," Lipp said.
THE R.U. OK? Corral also gave South County students the chance to sleep in, with Friday's school start delayed until 11 a.m. This allowed parents three hours before students arrived to participate in the "community outreach" program, Lipp said, and allowed parents to discuss individualized print-outs from each class.
"The parents here love having a community school, and we've had fabulous participation and interest in everything we've done here so far," said Lipp. "The teachers appreciate it too, they like that the parents are coming in and are concerned."
Standing in a gymnasium filled with parents, Rumberger was pleased with the turnout for the event.
"This is an opportunity for my staff to distinguish themselves as caring educators and for parents to distinguish themselves as caring community members interested in their children," Rumberger said. "The combination of that will get us the learning environment we've been trying to build."
The principal applauded his staff's efforts and guidance counselors for the preparation work needed for the R.U. OK? Corral and noted that some teachers were actually talking with parents for a little longer than the allotted five minutes.
"This was a successful event, very positive," he said.
Steve Harrison, a Springfield father whose son is in eighth grade at South County, said the morning was a "helpful," but he'd like to have more time with each teacher.
"Based on the size of the school, it's the best I can hope for," he said. "I wish they'd do another one of these in the spring. I'd like the opportunity to come back and talk with the teachers again like this."