The number of students enrolling in the Falls Church City Public Schools came in way above expectations with the commencement of classes Monday. Superintendent Dr. Peter Noonan opened Tuesday’s School Board work session with the announcement that 75 more students above the projected enrollment for this fall showed up at classes this Monday. That’s a big number in a system whose total enrollment is 2,624.
Noonan told the News-Press yesterday that so far there is no formal explanation for the enrollment jump but that it is being explored to see if it is a one-time jump or the signal of a new trend. The system’s partners in making such projections, which are key for the smooth running of the system, Weldon Cooper Associates, are working feverishly this week to evaluate the data. “Is this an anomaly, or a harbinger of things to come?” Noonan quipped.
Most of the unexpected growth is in the elementary and middle school areas, and not in the high school, Noonan reported. “The numbers have always fluctuated from year to year but this is a big number,” he said.
Quick adjustments to balance out classroom sizes were made the first day of classes, he said. It is not known how the numbers may continue to grow over the first weeks of classes. The system is not required to present an official number to Richmond for budgetary purposes until Sept. 30.
Otherwise, the opening of the City schools this week went swimmingly, Noonan reported to the School Board Tuesday. “Everyone was in classes, fed and transported to and from successfully,” he reported, adding that “we’ve gotten some very good feedback from parents, too.” Unlike some other school divisions in the region and nationally, there are no shortages of bus drivers or other key personnel in the system.
In his seventh year in the Falls Church system, and the recipient of a new contract this summer, Noonan said, “We’re off to a really great start.”
In its first work session of the new school year, the School Board was updated on security issues, including some “significant improvements” made over the summer, including the system-wide adoption of common security language to be shared among security personnel and school staff provided by the “I Love You Guys Foundation.”
The FCCPS’ Director of Education William Bates led a discussion of student behavior expectations, including a review of student rights and responsibilities and an emphasis on the “See something, say something” policy.
New guidelines for dealing with instances of bullying were also presented, with board member David Ortiz asking about kinds of “emotional meanness” that are “hard to detect.”
It was pointed out that the poll reported at last week’s school convocation that over 90 percent of students reported having at least one adult they feel they can talk to was important in that context.
The system’s emphasis on “wellness, equity and belonging” is important for “identifying signs” of bullying and abuse, and for adopting “restorative practices,” Bates said.
Noonan added that in general, schools are “the safest places in the community,” and that Falls Church has “incredibly safe schools.”
“Parents need to remind their kids to be nice,” he said, and “when we do get reports of problems parents need to know that we don’t make things up.”