The sunny weather was matched by the sunny smiles of students, teachers, staff and parents alike in what was hailed as one of the most smoothly-run opening days for the Falls Church City Public Schools in memory.
Such was the assessment of many as classrooms were filled for the first time this school year on Tuesday, despite the challenges of some significant logistical changes.
The second grade in the system, which had been at the Thomas Jefferson Elementary, was moved back to Mt. Daniel Elementary with the completion of new improvements there, and the fifth grade at Thomas Jefferson was moved to the Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School in another flawless move.
The result has been the first time in many years that there have been no classes meeting in trailers for the 2,700 students in the entire system, a long-awaited result through the many construction changes.
Though formal enrollment numbers are not due to the state until the end of September, Falls Church Schools Superintendent Peter Noonan told the News-Press after the first day of classes that preliminary nose-counting has accounted for a net increase of about 60 students more than last year throughout the system.
This resulted, among other things, in increasing the sixth grade class at Mary Ellen Henderson to 235 students, the largest number ever in the history of the system. As a result, an assistant principal, Rob Carey, was reassigned from Jefferson to Henderson.
Also, plans made in January to reduce the kindergarten at Mt. Daniel by one classroom, based on projected enrollment, was changed back to the old number due to higher than projected actual enrollment, Noonan said.
Meanwhile, construction is racing ahead for the new George Mason High School on the site of former practice fields at the campus. The foundations are being poured at the site, and walls are coming up out of the huge hole that was dug there in the construction’s first phase.
New traffic routes for buses and drop-offs at the high school and middle schools were well publicized in advance, and worked very smoothly on the first day of classes, Noonan said.
Tonight, “Back to School” night is scheduled for parents of students in the high school. They were to follow the schedule of their students for the semester and to meet and talk with the teachers. The same thing will happen for parents of middle schoolers next week.
(There is also a new tradition of an “Empty Nesters” party that was perpetuated tonight for those whose children graduated from high school last June and no longer have children in the system. That included F.C.’s Vice Mayor Marybeth Connelly.)
Noonan told the News-Press that at the conclusion of the first day of classes Tuesday, a conference call was held at 5 p.m. with all the school principals and key staff and teachers. “Everyone said without exception that it was the smoothest first day ever for them,” Noonan said.
Meanwhile, in school announcements e-mailed daily, a link to the remarks by Noonan at last week’s opening all-staff convocation was provided Wednesday.
In his remarks, Noonan called for creating a caring culture, closing achievement gaps and overcoming the “structural inequity by race, class and gender.”
“It is not OK for any student to be marginalized, allowing some to miss the mark,” he said. “Our goal must be to widen our lens. School is one part of the ecosystem, of the disenfranchised, and it must provide hope and the promise of betterment. This confronts use as a moral imperative,” he said.
This Friday, the GMHS Athletic Boosters Association will host its fourth annual Kickoff Tailgate before the home football game from 5 – 7 p.m. It is a free event providing new and current FCCPS families valuable information from Student Affiliated Organizations.