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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Parents, community get a first look at Annandale's newest elementary school

The entrance, with the office on the left.
Parents, community residents, and students are getting their first look at Mason Crest Elementary School, as the principal, Brian Butler, and his staff are conducting tours of Annandale’s newest school over the next couple of weeks. [See the school’s website for a tour schedule.]

Mason Crest will open in September with about 550 to 600 students in preschool through fifth grade. Only 10 fifth-graders are enrolled so far, which means they will have a very small class with more personalized instruction. To avoid having to switch schools in their last year of elementary school, students entering fifth grade have been given the option of staying in their home school. Mason Crest students are drawn from four elementary schools: Annandale Terrace, Beech Tree, Belvedere, and Woodburn.

Butler expects there will be six kindergarten classes, but won’t know for sure until the student enrollment numbers are determined in July.

The building is mostly complete. Most of the furniture hasn’t arrived yet, the librarian is still ordering  10,000-plus library books, and the playground still needs to be installed. But the walls are gleaming with fresh paint, and there’s an aura of excitement as the staff and community prepare to come together in a brand-new school. Incoming students have already selected the tiger as a mascot and school colors, red and black.
The library
About 75 percent of the staff positions have been filled, and Butler, the former principal of Mount Eagle Elementary School, says he just completed his 175th interview. He is looking to hire people who are enthusiastic about “learning new things, who work well on teams, and who are willing to be vulnerable, to say ‘I don’t know how to do this and I need help.’”

Butler cited the best things about being at a new school: “We can get everybody on the same page at the same time. We can develop and share our vision with the staff.”  All the teachers will take a “balanced literacy class” to ensure they are using best practices to teach reading and will also take part in professional development on math instruction.

One of two art rooms
For Leslie Leisey, Mason Crest’s technology specialist, the advantages of working at a brand-new school include the opportunity to have the most up-to-date technology and to hire staff “who are really energetic and excited about teaching and learning.”

Every classroom will have a smartboard, LCD projector, and built-in sound amplification system, so all students will be able to hear the teacher clearly. Mason Crest is the first school in the county with a geothermal heating and cooling system, which uses less energy than regular HVAC systems.

On the first floor, visitors at a June 6 open house looked at the gym, cafeteria, library, two School-Age Child Care (SACC) rooms, an open multipurpose space, and two preschool, two Head Start, and all the kindergarten and first-grade classrooms. Upstairs, there are classrooms for the upper grades and music, art, computer, math, reading, and special education rooms.

Butler’s vision is to “create a school where we can focus on the learning of adults.” And that’s important, because it “directly affects the learning of children.” Butler says he is “committed to making sure we educate all the children at a high level,” and the staff will “model the kind of behavior we want for our students.”

“No one will work in isolation,” he says. “We’ll insist on collaborating and will focus on teams.” Teachers will give formative assessments to students daily to provide feedback on what they’re learning.

The assistant principal, Diane Kerr, had been the elementary school ESOL coordinator in the Fairfax County Public Schools central office. She told a neighborhood meeting June 6 she appreciates how welcoming everyone has been. Noting that, as a Navy wife, she had taught in schools all over the world, she says, “The feeling I experienced from this community, it’s as though I’ve come home.”  

A first-grade classroom

1 comment:

  1. The school is beautiful and well thought out. Kudos!