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Off to a Good Start

Churchill Road and Franklin Sherman elementary schools start the school year on a happy note.

As school ended on Sept. 26, Churchill Road Elementary School principal Donald Hutzel and vice principal Kathy Manoato compared pedometers.

"Yours is just a little more than mine, but I'm going to run five miles tonight so you have no chance," said Hutzel, laughing.

Hutzel and Manoato joined the entire student body and faculty in wearing pedometers that day.

"The kids can keep track of their steps and write it down at the end of the day," said Manoato. "It's part of our effort to promote health and physical activity."

Manoato was previously at Kent Gardens Elementary School and joined Churchill Road as the new assistant principal this year. Hutzel is in his eighth year at the school — his sixth as principal.

"It's a super school," said Hutzel. "We get extraordinary support from the parents and we have enthusiastic teachers… it's a very happy place."

The biggest change at Churchill this year is the addition of a 10-classroom modular structure in the back of the school. The modular is home to fifth and sixth grade classes.

"They love it," said Hutzel. "On the inside they are equipped with the latest technology, they have running water and they're a nice size."

In addition to physical fitness and health, Hutzel said that Churchill is also paying close attention to the reading skills of the school's 730 students, making sure that each child is learning all the necessary components of good reading skills. The school also recently kicked off its "Teachers As Researchers" program, which encourages teachers to study a particular thesis of interest as a way to learn new teaching methods.

"It helps them to find the tools and methods to make them better teachers," said Hutzel. "We're all a community of learners here."

The school will also continue its Parent Teacher Association run "Outdoor Odyssey" program this year. The program allows students to learn school related topics through outdoor, hands-on projects on the school grounds.

"It's not just traditional classroom learning," said Hutzel.

Similarly, Churchill Elementary has an ongoing relationship with the McLean Arts Center, and with the Kennedy Center, both of which provide students with opportunities to learn about arts and culture. On Oct. 16, the school will hold its annual "Parade of Cuisines" international dinner, which invites students and their families to bring dishes that are representative of their different cultures.

"It's always very well attended," said Hutzel.

Hutzel said that his personal goal this year is to remain visible and accessible to students, faculty and parents "while also striving to share substantial information about our programs and what's happening with education here at Churchill."

"The support and respect and enthusiasm that everyone demonstrates here, really makes Churchill Road a very happy place for everyone," said Hutzel. "I never dread Mondays — it's just a great, great place to work."

RENOVATIONS are the biggest news for Franklin Sherman Elementary School this year. Although the actual construction work will not begin until the fall of 2007, Franklin Sherman principal Marty Smith is excited to get started.

"This is the part where we finalize plans for the building and hopefully have those sent in by Jan. 1," said Smith, who is in his fourth year as principal at the school.

Several significant improvements are slated for the school, including a brand new media center, a new art room, an outdoor learning area and general upgrades to the entire building. In addition, the classrooms will finally have doors installed.

"A major portion of our general education wing is currently without doors," said Smith.

This is due to the fact that the school was rebuilt with open classrooms after a fire in the 1970s. The main office will also be renovated and relocated to the front of the building.

Smith said the Franklin Sherman teaching faculty will continue to work together to ensure that students are learning core subjects and making smooth transitions from year to year.

"Teachers are always looking at ways we can structure learning strategies so we're not always re-inventing the wheel," said Smith.

Last year, teachers worked on math strategies by creating a shared folder which enabled each instructor to see what subjects and methods were used by their co-workers. This year, similar folders will be created for reading, social studies and science.

"It's not really what the information is, but how the information is taught and presented," said Smith. "We've found that it's easier for students to learn when they can tie in new learning to old learning."

Smith said the school will also continue to collaborate with the PTA to provide exciting learning opportunities to the school's 394 students. Last year, the PTA helped by purchasing 78 laptop computers for the school. This year, the PTA is looking into ways to provide more field trip opportunities for the students.