Up an Explosive 9% This Month at Mt. Daniel Elementary
Although the deadline for reporting official enrollment numbers is not until Friday, Falls Church City Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Toni Jones offered a snapshot to the News-Press Wednesday showing a whopping 4.5 percent overall enrollment increase, marking a second straight year of the same stunning rate of growth.
Following that, F.C. School Board Chair Susan Kearney was quick to respond to a News-Press query about the number growth by saying, “The numbers are certainly higher than we forecast. It is a surprise, but we are pleased because we love to educate them, even if we’re scrambling to make sure we have the means to do that.”
The sharpest rise in enrollment, Jones said, is at the Mt. Daniel Elementary, where the number is up a full nine percent over last June.
Enrollment growth at George Mason High School and Thomas Jefferson was about 4.5 percent; the only anomaly, growth in enrollment at the Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School has been limited to one percent.
The total student enrollment in the Falls Church system is roughly 2,270, Jones reported, the biggest number in the history of the system.
The growth has been spurred by more national news reports of the superior quality of the Falls Church system. Even with the internal struggles of the system, including handling issues of campus sizes and obsolescence and struggling by the City Council for funding for needed technology upgrades, the system has been singled out by many for its relatively small size providing a more hands-on approach to all students.
While some projections the School Board has been working with were under-predicting, Jones said that the “Kimble model” developed by the system’s own long-term financial director Hunter Kimble came close to a spot-on projection. “We are where projections said we would be,” Jones said.
“We are very full,” she added, but efforts are succeeding to find adequate classroom space and to bring on new teachers to fill the needs. She credited counselor Amy Kurjanowicj and principal Ty Byrd at George Mason High School with setting up the revolving schedules and adding staff to make it all work.
“Some part-time staff have stepped up from three-fourths to full time,” Jones said. “Everyone’s been fabulous.” She added that the equivalent of three or four full-time positions also had to be filled on short notice.
“We’ve stayed ahead of the curve, and I feel great about it,” Jones said.
She called attention to the new Henderson Middle School open house event set this Friday night. The ice cream social will bring parents, students and community members together to celebrate the successful start of another school year, she said.
“We are thrilled that the City Council provided us with the money we needed for new technology equipment,” she added. She said the shipment from Apple is expected to arrive next week, including 700 laptops and 500 iPads to be used by students, and that after taking inventory and setting them all up, they will be available for use within a couple of weeks.
She said that the challenge at Thomas Jefferson is accommodating the on-going construction effort that will not be completed until the end of April. The new construction will not be available for use until next September, because “doing the kind of stuff needed to be done when students are not on site” will not be done until next summer, Jones said.
With the work done by next September, however, the eighth grade will move back from the high school to the middle school, and the fifth grade will move back from the middle school to Thomas Jefferson.
In another notable new development at George Mason High, long-time and beloved theater arts instructor Pam Spicer has moved on, heading to Manhattan to pursue her theater career there, and has been replaced by Shaun Northrup, who’d worked in the past as Mason but went on more recently to teach at the university level.
Northrup is back at Mason now, and held his first audition for the fall musical that will be performed in November. That musical has been identified as “Xanadu.”
Meanwhile, the Mason Athletic Boosters are undertaking a fundraising drive to add lights to the high school’s baseball and softball diamonds.
Correction: Enrollment numbers by school previously reported in this article have been removed.