News

3 Weeks In, No Outbreak of H1N1 at F.C. Schools So Far

Three weeks into the start of the new school year in the City of Falls Church, and there is no evidence yet of a significant outbreak of the H1N1 flu virus, Superintendent Dr. Lois Berlin told the News-Press yesterday.

She said that school officials prepared over the summer for what health officials predicted could be a major outbreak of the flu commensurate with the start of school and the interactions among students in the classrooms.

“We have gotten off to a very smooth start,” Berlin said, since the start of classes on Sept. 8. “There has been only the normal level of absenteeism.”

She said all the Falls Church schools have stocked up on breathing masks that students will be asked to put on if they begin to exhibit flu-like symptoms until arrangements can be made to send them home.

“We’ve been stressing to everyone the usual preventative steps, such as the frequent washing of hands, and especially to stay home if symptoms develop.”

The first batch of H1N1 flu vaccines were reported delivered in the U.S. yesterday, and a health official at the local Kaiser center reminded the News-Press that the public will need both the currently-available general flu vaccine and the special one developed for the H1N1 flu strain to be fully protected.

Official enrollment data was due out of the School Board office in Falls Church yesterday, and Berlin told the News-Press the number of enrollees is higher than expected, but not by that much.

The projected overall enrollment for this school year was 1,979, and the actual number as of Sept. 30 is 2,003, she said. That increase over the expected number of 23 reflects the size of an average class, and corresponds to the creation of a new class in kindergarten, bringing the class total there to seven.

The biggest increase in students is in the kindergarten at Mt. Daniel School, she said, where the actual total is 155 compared to the 132 number estimated in advance.

Berlin noted that the increase will not require dipping into the system’s contingency fund to make up the difference, at least not yet. The added class in the kindergarten is being taught by a teacher originally assigned to the pre-school program.

However, Berlin was called to a meeting at City Hall yesterday where some bad news about the size of the shortfall in the current year’s budget was presented. She told the News-Press she could “neither confirm nor deny” that fact, and that members of the School Board will need to be briefed before any public pronouncements can be made.

She noted that a lot of the increase in the system’s enrollment is coming by way of the U.S. State Department. She said she is unclear why, but intends to inquire.

But the Oakwood Apartments, a common destination for new State Department assignees and their families, is reportedly full to capacity, with the overflow locating to the new Pearson Square apartments.

Last year, total enrollment in the system was 1,941, led by George Mason High School (grades 8-12) with 801 students, followed by the Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School (grades 5-7) with 455, Thomas Jefferson Elementary (grades 2-4) with 427 and Mount Daniel (kindergarten, pre-school, family literacy and grade 1) with 258.

Although students in the system were overwhelmingly Caucasian (74 percent) compared to 11 percent Asian, nine percent Hispanic and five percent African-American, the number of native languages spoken by students was 37, indicating the high level of foreign diplomat families residing in the City.

The system employs 350 full-time positions, including 170 full-time teaching positions and a support staff of 143. There are 14 administrators, and 182 in the system hold advanced degrees. The beginning teacher salary is $44,290 and average teacher salary is $63,735. The per-pupil expenditure is $18,788.

There are 892 lunches served daily in the system, with 5.73 percent of students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches, and 15 school buses make 29 total daily bus runs for a total of 94,563 miles annually.