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Springfield Schools Prepare for an ‘Exciting Year’

Full-day Mondays the biggest change in a new school year.

From left--Assistant Principal Janice Dalton and Principal Maureen Boland go over plans for the upcoming school year in Boland’s office at Rolling Valley Elementary School.

From left--Assistant Principal Janice Dalton and Principal Maureen Boland go over plans for the upcoming school year in Boland’s office at Rolling Valley Elementary School. Photos by Marissa Beale/The Connection

With the first day of school, Sept. 2, approaching --elementary schools are hard at work preparing for the new school year.

While many of the schools in Springfield are undergoing changes such as renovation or changes in administration, every school will have to deal with what is, by far, the biggest change, yet, for the 2014-2015 school year.

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Amy Harper, preschool teacher at West Springfield Elementary School, stands by her son, rising sixth grader Graham Harper, at Keene Mill Elementary School.

“This is the first year since 1972 that all [Fairfax County Public Schools] will go to a full day on Monday,” said Maureen Boland, principal of Rolling Valley Elementary School. For years, elementary school students were released early from school on Mondays, reducing the school day to four hours long. The early release allowed extra time for teacher planning. However, the School Board voted to lengthen the day after both parents and teachers spoke up about it. The change is set to take place this upcoming September. While parents are excited for the change, students have differing ideas.

“I will miss the Mondays,” said Graham Harper, a rising sixth grader at Keene Mill Elementary School. But students can delight in having 20 minutes of daily recess because of the added minutes to the school day. The new change also allows for up to 12 school days to be missed due to things such as inclement weather, without extra days having to be added to the school year calendar.

“I think a lot of parents will like the extended school day,” said Amy Harper, preschool teacher at West Springfield Elementary School.

SEVERAL SCHOOLS IN SPRINGFIELD are preparing to undergo renovations in the fall. Keene Mill Elementary School, Garfield Elementary School, and North Springfield Elementary are just three schools with construction plans either already underway or in the works. Garfield Elementary, which opened in 1952, is undergoing construction that is expected to be completed in 2015. The renovation will add an entirely new wing to the school, according to the school’s website. Keene Mill is preparing for an 18-month renovation project that will start in November, according to Ellen Colter, assistant Principal at Keene Mill Elementary School. “Parents are nervous, but the kids are excited,” said Keene Mill Principal, Renee Miller.

Academics-wise, several schools have exciting changes underway. Keene Mill plans to add a “Language through Content Program,” which incorporates Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) programs with foreign language. Every class will have a Language trough Content Program. Come September, every student will receive one hour a week of Spanish instruction. Keene Mill is one of 16 pilot schools in the county that are trying this out. “We are starting with foreign language and then adding S.T.E.A.M.,” said Principal Miller. S.T.E.A.M. stands for science, technology, engineering, art, and math, and is a movement that has been widely adopted across the country to “encourage the integration of Art + Design in K-20 education,” according to StemtoSteam.org. “We’re preparing students for their futures and want to help them be as successful as possible in all endeavors,” said Principal Miller. Brian Lachance, technology specialist at Keene Mill Elementary and Annie Miller, instructional coach at Keene Mill, worked on a grant that is now being funded by the County to “change the time, place, and pace of learning,” according to Lachance. The grant has resulted in 60 iPads that will go to 30 Keene Mill Elementary School first and second grade students to take home and use. These students will have the chance to try and make digital portfolios, an endeavor that many do not attempt until high school and even college. “This integration of technology will also allow for creative expression,” said Lachance.

At Cardinal Forest Elementary, teachers are hard at work administering reading tests for rising kindergarteners. “We are preparing to welcome the Class of 2027,” said Principal Karen Kenna.

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Cardinal Forest Elementary School kindergarten teacher Diane Flanagan goes over reading materials with a rising kindergarten student.

OVER THE COURSE of the days leading up to the first day of school, kindergarten teachers at Cardinal Forest will sit down, one to one, with students, to test and record their reading abilities.

“This reading assessment is fairly new,” said kindergarten teacher Sue Trinka. “This year marks the second one where we have done it,” she said. This test is to better gauge of abilities and needs of students going to school for the first time. Over at Rolling Valley Elementary School, Principal Maureen Boland and Assistant Principal Janice Dalton are preparing for the school year by maintaining a fun and positive atmosphere. One thing they have focused on is forming business partnerships, and partnering with the PTA to create events to grow and strengthen the school’s community. The school has sponsored a health fair, an international night, a movie night, and a school dance.

“All of these events are designed to celebrate the community,” said Dalton. The school also had their first camping trip at Hemlock Overlook, a regional park in Clifton. The trip was for the entire sixth grade class, and was a huge success. “We hope to make this a tradition,” said Boland.

For a complete school year calendar, visit the Fairfax County Public School website at www.fcps.edu.

Celebrating Virtues

Saint Bernadette Catholic School, one of about nine private schools in Springfield, will start the school with a new vision statement that strives for students to be “well-formed” in conscience, “well-trained” in mind, and to “witness the love of Christ through practical application of the faith.” Michael Kelleher, who is entering his second year as principal of Saint Bernadette, says that the school’s focus is not only for students to get good jobs once they have completed their education, but to be well rounded individuals. This well-roundedness has a lot to do with virtues. In the upcoming school year, Saint Bernadette will celebrate a different virtue each month. The theme for the first month is the virtue of hope, and students at the school will have an opportunity to recognize each other for exhibiting the virtue being focused on for the given month.