More Room for Mountain View

More Room for Mountain View

Once a shared space, school expands into its whole building.

When Mountain View School first opened its doors more than 10 years ago, it had just 88 students. And it shared the building which housed the original Centreville Elementary School with Fairfax County Adult Education.

BUT, LO AND BEHOLD, in late October, the adult-education program moved to new digs on Edsall Road, and Mountain View was finally able to expand into the rest of its building. And since it'll have nearly 370 students this year, it definitely needed the extra space.

Mountain View began readying that part of the building, to the left of the entrance, for its own students as soon as adult ed left. "We worked hard over winter break," said Principal Jim Oliver. "And on Jan. 2, we began using the rest of the building."

Before then, Mountain View had just 10 classrooms inside the building. All the other classes were in 10 trailers outside. So during the Christmas holidays, four of those classrooms — the entire English Department — were moved inside, as well as a business classroom.

"Now, most of the kids won't have to walk across the parking lot to go to the trailers for class in inclement weather," said Oliver. "We hope to eventually move them all in. We're looking at reprogramming this building to utilize all the extra space."

Mountain View also picked up a substantial amount of office space, which has freed up a larger area for classrooms. Said Oliver: "The major impact is that, in the back of our media center, we had three offices that now have been moved to the new, upper-level area [formerly occupied by adult ed]."

In addition, the school now has an actual place for its career center. "We're ecstatic about it," said Oliver. "Our career specialists never had an area where they could meet with students to discuss future goals and plans in relation to college, the workforce or other venues. It was always in the back of the library — where other activities or research were taking place."

Now, he said, the students in the library have a nicer and larger learning environment, and the school's transition team — which counsels each senior about his or her next step after graduation — has also been able to move into the career center. This counseling is a crucial part of the guidance the school offers and, said Oliver, "We pride ourselves on doing this."

THE SCHOOL also gained space on the downstairs, lower level, which allows it to have a multipurpose room. For example, said Oliver, "We recently had a mentor social in there which, in the past, we had to hold in the gym. And the students now eat their lunch there, too, instead of the gym. It's a nice, well-lit, open environment for them."

He said the new multipurpose room will also be used as a major, new testing site for SOLs — "which will be more comfortable than the gym was, with its darkened walls. The multipurpose room is carpeted and has windows. It's warmer and more inviting, so it's an ideal place for kids to meet or instruction to take place."

It can also be used for large activities involving members of the community, such as the school's annual Reality Store, in which business people give students a realistic idea of the cost of living once they leave high school and are out on their own.

There's also another, equally important benefit from all this new space. "The kids see the changes as very positive," said Oliver. "And it really has lifted their self-esteem because they see the school converting for them to provide better instructional sites."

He said the teachers are excited, too, because they have better classrooms and more space for teaching. Furthermore, the mobile labs that couldn't be taken outside to the trailers can now be used more readily by both students and staff. Classrooms are large and bright, and there's more hall space on which to display student work.

"What's really cool about watching the upper level be utilized by students is that it brought new life to the building," said Oliver. "Students and teachers mix together more, and there's a much better sense of unity because we're all inside more — especially the English teachers, who are now inside more for lunch, etc."

Before, social studies, ESOL and business classes were partly inside the building and partly in the trailers, but now they're all under the same roof as the other classes. And with this new configuration, classes within the various departments are all grouped together in the same area.

That makes it easier for teachers to collaborate and share materials and supplies. And, added Eric Kinneman, director of student services, "Having everybody in the building will also help with the potential for interdisciplinary units."

In addition, said Oliver, "The special ed department that was in the trailers is now in the middle of things, inside. So now teachers can move about in the building and meet with their students' other teachers easier now for more dialogue and communication between them."

ALL TOTALED, the school now has 15 classrooms inside, and the finance and security departments, plus the assistant principal, have now relocated to the new section. "There are 90 more students inside, and it's a better feel," said Oliver. "There are a lot of smiles from both teachers and students."

Joseph Lacomb is one of many students happy to now attend classes in the building. "The trailers are kind of isolated, and moving inside the school gives us a more comfortable setting," he explained. "We have a real classroom."

Besides that, he added, "There's pride that comes with it because everyone's in the school. I had three classes in the trailers so I was outside all day. But here, I'm in a class with other students, just like a real school."

His English teacher, Bobbi Ingalls, also noted that "the move has improved collegiality among the faculty because we're not in two places." And student Rachel Tazbin liked her new classroom because "it's big and there are windows and light."

English Department Chairman Bobby Moore teaches two classes and, like Lacomb, he's also glad to be out of the trailers: "It feels like we're part of the school community, and there's a feeling of togetherness."

"I think the students are much happier in a more classlike environment," said Moore. "And since we have a lot more computer access in the building, that's a big advantage for the students and is more conducive to learning."

Mountain View also plans to enclose the back portion of its media center to create two instructional areas in the library for students and staff; currently, there's just one. "We also have a wireless lab in there, so teachers use it as a writing lab," said Oliver. "And student films may also be worked on and shown in there."

HE SAID the school received great support from the school system's Design and Construction Department, which "did a phenomenal job getting the rooms cleaned and painted — and even a few walls knocked down. It's been 10 years, and it's nice to see these new changes come true. We started the year off with a very exciting time for Mountain View."

Besides it being a safer, more secure environment for learning, said Oliver, the changes have brought about a renewed sense of belonging. "Our motto is 'The family,' and we really feel it with everyone inside under one roof," he said. "It's a magical place here, and seeing this part of the building being used is huge."