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What's New at Cold Spring Elementary

Cold Spring Elementary posted the highest scores on the Maryland School Assessments in the state in the 2005-2006 school year, partly because it houses the Center for the Highly Gifted for grades 4 and 5. The program provides gifted and motivated elementary students who can handle advanced concepts with an accelerated and enriched instructional program. It is designed for students who learn at a faster pace and who can handle advanced concepts. Feeder schools include those in the Churchill, Wootton, Richard Montgomery and Bethesda-Chevy Chase clusters. The program admits 20 to 25 percent of applicants.

The school also houses Learning for Independence (LFI), a special education program that teaches functional life skills. Educators prepare students with mild and moderate cognitive disabilities for adult life by teaching skills that assist in independence in work, recreational and home settings.

Cold Spring encourages interaction between all types of students.

“There’s been a conscious effort on my part as well as on the part of the staff to introduce the students to differences in kids,” said Martin Barnett, who is beginning his 13th year as principal at Cold Spring. “Because of the homogeneity in our community, it’s good for kids to see different walks of life. The kids help our LFI students off the bus, play with them at lunch and help them on the bus.”

Counselors also meet with students and parent groups to lecture on appreciating and tolerating differences among children.

“It’s the total child approach,” said Barnett. “It’s not just academics, but also the social and emotional independence of kids.”

Barnett has tall expectations for his high-achieving school. He would like to see the percentage of “proficient” scorers on the Maryland School Assessments bumped up from the high 90s to 100 percent across the board.

“When you do that, you will simultaneously increase the number of kids working on the advanced level,” he said.

Cold Spring offers accelerated math classes, with fourth-grade students taking fifth- and sixth-grade math, and fifth-grade students taking sixth- and seventh-grade math. One fifth-grade student travels to the nearest middle school to take algebra.

Also, Cold Spring’s kindergarten program moved from half-day to full-day this year.

“It’s a learning experience for kids at age 5 to eat in the cafeteria and play nicely outside together,” said Barnett with a smile.

NANCY HARLAN of Potomac is beginning her first year as PTA president of Cold Spring Elementary. She previously served as president-elect and a delegate to the county PTA. She has four children, two of whom are currently in the school system.

Harlan said that a top goal this year is improving communication to draw more parents into the PTA. She plans to get the new and improved PTA Web site up and running this year.

“We sowed the seeds for that last year, this year we need to fine-tune it so we can survey the community when we need opinions, and help connect them to certain committees they want to work in,” she said. “I think it will be an asset to increase the number of parents we have involved in the PTA program.”

This year, the PTA is hosting a Read-a-Thon in October. Additional reading activities will be integrated into the school day, and students will be encouraged to stay after school to read individually or have parents or teachers read to them. The Book-a-Breakfast program will allow children to come to school an hour early to read while PTA members serve them breakfast.

Annual events at Cold Spring include Bingo Night and a teacher raffle in October, Geography Week in January, a special Valentine’s Day lunch that parents are invited to attend, a Science Expo in April, and an International Fair in March featuring food, artifacts and costumes from various cultures. She noted that the International Fair has been effective in integrating new fourth-grade students and their families into the school community when they come to Cold Spring for the Center for the Highly Gifted.

In addition, the school provides opportunities for community service, such as the Walk for the Homeless in October. In November, each classroom raises money for a needy child through the Salvation Army.

There are also ample after-school activities at Cold Spring, such as a nationally renowned chess club for all grades, and a dance club, where students can learn multicultural dances to perform at the International Fair.

<b>Cold Spring Elementary Calendar</b>

* Open House: Oct. 9, 9-11 a.m.

* Book Fair: Oct. 9-13

* Homeless Walk-a-thon: Oct. 18, 1:30 p.m.

* Halloween Parade and Parties: Oct. 31, 1:15-2:45 p.m.

* Book-a-Breakfast: March

* End-of-Year Picnic: June

* Fifth-Grade Graduation: June