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Herndon Elementary Holds Open House

Parents, teachers and students meet before school begins.

During the August open house at Herndon Elementary, food trucks including Rito Loco, DC Slices and Safari Ice were parked by the curb as families visited the school.

During the August open house at Herndon Elementary, food trucks including Rito Loco, DC Slices and Safari Ice were parked by the curb as families visited the school. Photo by Ryan Dunn.

Herndon Elementary School (HES) held an open house on Aug. 29 as an opportunity for teachers, parents and students to meet and connect. Fairfax County Public Schools opened Sept. 2, so students could visit their classrooms and get oriented. Herndon Elementary School has over 920 students enrolled at the school located at 630 Dranesville Road. Friends and volunteers with the local PTA assisted school staff and provided information on upcoming PTA events.

“The school kiss and ride program is for students brought through by car,” said Herndon Elementary math teacher and PTA officer Jaime Graham. “We have about 60 to 70 cars which go through the school parking lot.”

Food trucks including Rito Loco, DC Slices and Safari Ice were parked by the curb as families visited the school. Relatives and students had the opportunity to see and play on the new playground, which was set up over the summer. “We have a campaign to help families join the PTA, as well as a celebration of the new playground,” said Rita Fullerton, a member of the school PTA. “I think the open house has been really successful,” said Herndon PTA president Amanda Geary.

“It has been a good show,” said school counselor Brian Falkey. “It makes things run smoother when people know where they are supposed to go.” This will be Falkey’s second year at Herndon Elementary. Welcoming students and parents near the front entrance was school principal Ann Gwynn. Herndon Elementary School offers enrollment from kindergarten to sixth grade, and also offers a language immersion program.

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Herndon Elementary second grade teacher Ann Godden with a student.

“It is nice to be able to meet my child’s teacher in an open atmosphere,” said Alex Steis, a graduate from Herndon High School in 1996. “The food trucks are a plus.” The Steis parents and their son met second grade teacher, Ann Godden. “This is my 19th year teaching here,” said Godden. “I love the open house because it is a wonderful time to meet my students and their families. It is an exciting day.” As the students visited, Godden asked them to choose a desk and write a nametag.

THIS WILL BE THE LAST YEAR a second grade class can take the French language immersion program. Due to changes that began several years ago, the French program will be phased out year by year through 2019. Principal Gwynn has said a Spanish dual immersion program will benefit the HES population, as learning Spanish is a skill for English speakers in society and the workforce. Some parents did not concur with this change, and felt HES and the Fairfax County School Board did not sufficiently engage parents before making the decision. “I think it is important for school to meet the needs of the community they are in,” said language immersion teacher Maria Conomos. Conomos will teach first grade Spanish and French to fourth grade students.

While the school has a new playground, it has been struggling with an issue of over capacity. In 2009, Herndon Elementary was number 21 on the district’s list of schools to be renovated, but by the following year, renovations were pushed back to 2021. Currently trailers are being used at the Herndon Elementary school campus to assist a need for classrooms and teaching space. “It is an old building, and this is just how it is in a growing area,” said HES second grade teacher Kathryn Schroeck. “I do not know how this issue can be resolved unless they change the school boundaries,” said Schroeck.

THE NEW 2014-2015 SCHOOL YEAR will have full-day Mondays for all elementary students. The change will increase instructional time for students and dedicated planning time for teachers. On Aug. 25 Herndon Elementary teachers took a bus tour through the Herndon community visiting six locations including Runnymede Park, Fortnightly Library, Lifestyle Apartments, and Haley Smith Park. Herndon Elementary will host a Back to School Night on Sept. 18 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. This will be an opportunity to hear teachers speak and find volunteer, club and other PTA Information at the cafeteria. For more information, visit www.fcps.edu/HerndonES/.