Enrollment Numbers Beat Expectations As F.C. Schools Open Without Incident

Berlin Says No New Teachers Needed to Handle New Adds

Falls Church Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Lois Berlin reported to the NewsPress today that as many as 60 more students than expected showed up for classes at the system’s four schools Tuesday.

While plans for the coming school year involved an expected number equivalent to last year’s, 2,034, the larger number will still not require any additional teacher or staff hiring, Berlin stated. The growth is highest at George Mason High and the Henderson Middle School, but numbers at all four schools are up. The final, official enrollment numbers for the coming year will not be established until the end of the month, as there are always some late arrivals and early departures in the first weeks.

But the opening of school in Falls Church could not have been smoother, Berlin said, and following last week’s outdoor “Back to School” assembly at the high school football field, favorable weather has been among the factors favoring a good start.

Last Friday night, a larger-than-expected fan turnout for the first varsity football game of the season was treated to the appearance, for the first time, of the new, striking Mustang statue, a sheer black fiberglass creation that was the class gift of last June’s graduating Class of 2010.

George Mason High School students were greeted this week by, among other things, the tweets of Principal Tyrone Byrd. With a Twitter account named “MasonMustangs,” Byrd had 49 followers as of press time and admonished to them yesterday, “Let’s commit to success, and again, no excuses,” adding, “Please find help if you need help. We are in this together!”

The on line and social media machines are buzzing at the schools, with the Mason High newspaper, The Lasso, being solely an on line product in recent years and has Becca Ward and Sam Atkeson as its editors this year, kicking off the year with a new feature of “what I did over the summer” focused on the summer exploits of a number of the school’s teachers.

At the top of the list was the three-week summer immersion program led by Chinese language teacher Tina Kao. She led an entourage of 12 Mason students to study at the National Cheng Kung University in Tainan, Taiwan over the summer, and the students not only studied the language, but also the culture of their Chinese hosts.

One student, senior Katie Douthitt, attended for the second time.

According to Berlin, the Chinese language program is alive and well at Mason, with enough students for two classes, although there is currently one for students in each of the grades eight through 12.

Arabic language, however, has been dropped from the school’s curriculum for lack of sufficient interest.

Other summer adventures of the school’s teachers include two marriages and one birth of a child. Breanne Smith was married, accompanied in the ceremony by a number of her GMHS teacher colleagues, and is now Ms. Rodino. Mark Sokolowki got married at the University of Virginia, where both he and his new bride attended and first met.

Jill McConnell became the mother of a baby girl in July. In other adventures, Maggie Wiseman toured England, Joel Block went helmet diving in Bermuda, Jame Scharff visited Sarasota Springs, New York, Chin Mah spent three weeks in Germany and Prague, Jennifer Jayson biked across Iowa, towing her daughter in a wagon, and Joy Wagener spent a week on the Outer Banks.

This Friday, a delegation of students from Chile will arrive at the school, staying through Sept. 24. The new dance team will hold a bake sale at 3 p.m. this Friday, and the chorus and band groups are already beginning to form. The first meeting of the Be The Change Club is next week in advance of the annual Challenge Days that will be coming to Mason High and, for the first time, also to the Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School later this fall.

An effort is underway, spearheaded by parent and local realtor Stacy Hennessey, to involve the City’s businesses, seniors and other groups in the programs at the schools, and plans are in the early stages for a “Chamber of Commerce Night” at a football game.

Also, the Falls Church Education Foundation, the non-profit set up to assist the schools through a range of fundraising activities, is holding its fifth annual Run for the Schools this Sunday at 8 a.m.