‘Can’t Wait’ for School

‘Can’t Wait’ for School

Reston’s elementary schools hope to open school with a running start.

It all starts with good habits at Sunrise Valley.

The elementary school proved it this year by becoming a Habits of Mind Focus school, made possible by a Fairfax County Public Schools grant.

Guest educational experts Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick, two prominent educators who collaborated to write “Discovering and Exploring Habits of Mind,” will be on hand for workshops during the year.

“We’re really excited about this,” said Principal Elizabeth English. The program focuses on the development of 16 habits rooted in a modern view of intelligence, such as persistence, clear communication, and thinking independently.

English anticipates the program will reinforce the already strong student performance on the state Standards of Learning exams.

“We continue to do very well,” she said. The school continues to meet adequate yearly progress mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind law.

More exciting than the program, English said, are the teachers and staff for the upcoming school year. “Since last Monday [Aug. 14], I’ve had probably 12 teachers here working to set up their classrooms.”

Over the summer, English hired 10 new teachers, including specialists. “They are going to bring a lot of energy and youth,” said English, adding that several teachers were lost last year to retirement and teachers moving out of the area.

The school will open with a new celebration garden to honor the life of Becky Shaler, a 26-year teacher at Sunrise Valley who died of cancer last year. The school’s soccer field was also re-seeded this summer.

Enrollment at the school remains about the same as last year at 496. Of a staff of 65 people, 21 are classroom teachers.

The two trailers the school has had for several years will continue to be used for band class.

AT TERRASET ELEMENTARY, where Ellen Cury is entering her 5th year as principal, students will say “hola” to Spanish this year.

As part of the Foreign Language in the Elementary School program, foundational Spanish will be taught in support of the existing curriculum, according to Cury.

“The Spanish teacher will be teaching with the general education teacher,” said Cury, adding that the program is not as intensive as an immersion program. “The research that’s been shared with me, though, shows it’s very effective.”

To align with the pyramid’s middle and high school (Langston Hughes and Sough Lakes), Terraset will also offer a positive behavior support program.

Cury reported that the school added a new traffic calming tool over the summer, but that it doesn’t quite compare to the multi-million-dollar renovations at South Lakes, which is just a stone’s throw away. “We have a new speed bump,” said Cury, laughing.

About 100 students attended Terraset’s school-based summer school, which Cury thought was “extremely effective.”

The school has met adequate yearly progress in past years, and Cury expects to do so again this year. “Our test scores have gone up every year,” said Cury, who hired five new classroom teachers this summer.

Enrollment at the Title I school continues to drop. This year it will decrease by about 20 students, down to 379. “I think what’s happening is we’re an aging community, but we are seeing an increase in the younger kids,” said Cury.

The school’s 20 classroom teachers (out of a total staff of 60) also received a warm welcome upon their return last week. Each teacher received a new digital camera to aid instruction.

“CAN’T WAIT,” said Hunters Woods Elementary School Principal Olivia Toatley when asked about the first day of school and the return of students. “It’s been quiet around here this summer.”

But Toatley and the rest of the staff at the school know that things will soon pick up. “That’s why we do all this,” she said, referring to all the work administrators and teachers have done the past few months to prepare for the new year.

Learning will continue to be infused with art programs and initiatives “to teach and introduce the curriculum,” said Toatley, who starts her second year as principal. “We’re striving to make sure each child has an enriching experience this year.”

Like Terraset, Hunters Woods is also starting a positive behavior support program, which will build on the traits of respect, responsibility, honesty and compassion.

“That’s not to say we have a problem here, but we want to emphasize the positive behaviors,” said Toatley.

The school continues to meet adequate yearly progress. “I’m confident that we will meet [them] again this year,” said Toatley. “Our preliminary results look like we have done very well.”

Twelve teachers were hired this past summer. Toatley said that all 38 classroom teachers will receive digital cameras this year.

Toatley beamed about the school’s garden, which continues to grow a variety of produce. She noted that the garden was part of the Reston Garden Tour last year. “It will continue to be an important instructional tool,” said Toatley.

Enrollment at the school remains steady with around the 1,000 students.

The school also uses eight trailers, six of which are used for instructional classes.