5 F.C. School Principals Report Enrollment Up Sharply K-to-12

PRINCIPALS OF ALL 5 Falls Church City Public School campuses appeared together before the Falls Church School Board at a work session Tuesday night to give preliminary enrollment numbers and more at the work session. (Photo: News-Press)
PRINCIPALS OF ALL 5 Falls Church City Public School campuses appeared together before the Falls Church School Board at a work session Tuesday night to give preliminary enrollment numbers and more at the work session. (Photo: News-Press)

On the heels of the first day of school’s enrollment numbers tallied last week showing an addition of 157 net new students, or a robust 6.6 percent growth, principals of the five Falls Church City Public Schools campuses came together at a work session of the Falls Church School Board Tuesday night to give reports on early enrollment numbers (the biggest news, all solidly up), as well as some SOL and other test comparisons (all very high) and objectives for the coming year above and beyond excellent classroom education.

George Mason High School’s principal Matt Hills reported that enrollment as of today is at 821, up 34 over last year, and noted that in addition to a 100 percent graduation rate, over 91 percent of seniors are enrolled in at least one Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Dual Enrollment (in subjects such as physics in conjunction with the Northern Virginia Community College) class. The total is 83 percent of those in grades 10-12.

Mary Ellen Henderson principal Ty Harris reported an attendance of 591 as of today, and that reading scores for ESOL students are 10 to 20 points above the state SOL average. Engagement, he noted, will include the annual Back to School Night tonight (Thursday. Sept. 22) from 6 p.m. on, and an MEH Faculty Vs/ Rec Center Staff basketball game Oct. 14.

Thomas Jefferson Elementary’s new principal Paul Swanson reported enrollment at 823 students, up from 784 during the 2015-16 school year, and said that a major challenge there is to raise the English proficiency rankings of the school’s economically disadvantaged students, which are currently below the state average (unique for Falls Church schools). Those students represent almost 10 percent of the student body.

He added that based on the spring’s “climate survey” results, another challenge being addressed is to “revitalize the culture and communication” at the school. He noted the campus is almost at full capacity now.

Mt. Daniel Elementary’s new principal Erin Kelly reported attendance at 392 today, up from 349 last year, and cited good results in the Developmental Reading Assessment, Phonological Awareness Literacy Screens,and STAR Early Literacy, Math and Reading results. Summer school increased STAR reading results in 85 percent of the students.

Jessie Thackrey Preschool principal Elizabeth Germer cited enrollment at 73 this year compared to 56 last year, including nine two-year olds compared to one a year ago.

Later in the work session Tuesday, the School Board discussed plans for finding a qualified replacement for departing Superintendent Dr. Toni Jones.
With Dr. Jones slated to leave in early December for a new position as superintendent of the Fairfield, Connecticut, school system, the board indicated its intention to launch a nationwide search using a search firm or Virginia School Board Association resources, and indicated a “robust public engagement process” would be involved in the decision making.

The aim, according to Board vice chair John Lawrence, would be to hire the replacement in the spring and to have the replacement ready for to start July 1, 2017 or before if possible.

In the search for an interim superintendent, the plan is to search the Virginia School Board Association’s pool of past superintendents in the state willing to serve in an interim role, and to advertise elsewhere as well.

The plan, Lawrence said, is “to aim for some overlap with Dr. Jones before she leaves in early December.”

Also, Superintendent Jones told a meeting of the Elementary PTA Tuesday night that the plan is to begin with the renovation and expansion of the Mt. Daniel Elementary School as soon as school ends next June 22, now that the plan was approved by the Fairfax County Planning Commission last week.

The construction team returned Tuesday to resume mapping the planning and permitting process, she reported, and with demolition expected to begin next June, and the new site is expected to be ready for occupancy between August and December 2018.

Temporary classrooms will likely arrive around the time of the Spring Break next spring which will impact parking but no moving of classrooms or demolition will begin before June 22.