Kindergarten, 1st Grade Experience Biggest Growth
First day of school enrollment numbers in the Falls Church City Schools released at the F.C. School Board meeting Tuesday night show an explosive 6.34 percent enrollment growth, exceeding projections and eclipsing the record 4.5 percent growth of the last two school years.
The biggest jump in enrollment was in the kindergarten and first grades at the Mt. Daniel Elementary, where the leap over enrollment the last day of the previous school year in June was from 169 to 199 in kindergarten and from 173 to 184 in the first grade. Both those increases blew past the projections of the Weldon Cooper consultants from the University of Virginia who predicted a net growth in those two grades of only five students.
George Mason High enrollment in grades 9 through 12 grew from 702 to 752. Henderson Middle School grades 6 through 8 fell by two from 543 to 541, and Thomas Jefferson grades 3 through 6 grew from 647 to 703. Overall, the system enrollment has grown from 2,271 (and 2,310 counting students it subsidizes going to out of system schools) at the end of the school year last June to 2,415 (with a 2,444 subsidized total) arriving for the new school year last week.
Final official enrollment numbers for submission to the state will be submitted Sept. 30, and will be expected to rise a bit further. Dr. Toni Jones, Superintendent of Schools, said enrollment is expected to leap further this fall when the new large scale mixed use project, Northgate, is expected to open.
She said local real estate agents are reporting to her that single family homes in the mid-range price have been selling to families with young children like hot cakes, and in many cases families are now being forced to rent because of a lack of availability of right-priced homes to buy.
“The School Board has done a very good job being proactive in planning for contingencies so we’ll be able to handle this,” Jones told the News-Press. This fall’s shifts in the location of grades resulting from the renovation and expansion of Thomas Jefferson Elementary, dropping grade 5 from Henderson Middle School to Jefferson and dropping grade 8 from Mason High to Henderson, made accommodating the unexpected growth easier. But especially, it was the decision to relocate pre-school from Mt. Daniel to temporary digs at Jefferson which gave Mt. Daniel the ability to absorb its high growth rate.
The pre-school is located in temporary classrooms on the Jefferson campus while a renovation is underway at the Cherry Street location.
Convening for its first meeting of the new school year, the School Board heard a report from Dr. Jones on the very high Standards of Learning (SOL) test score averages achieved by Falls Church students. In “end of course English,” for example, Mason students were in the 96th percentile, compared to the 86th for the state overall, and 89th for neighboring Arlington County.
Math performance in grades 3 through 8 was also high, with Falls Church students in the 88th percentile, compared to the statewide 61st percentile, and Arlington’s 77th.
“All of our kids are achieving at the highest level,” Dr. Jones said.