Noonan optimistic as the new school year begins
Enrollment at the Falls City Church’s two public high schools, Meridian and Henderson, is each about two dozen students above the expected number for the fall, said superintendent Dr. Peter Noonan, at the first school board meeting of the season held in City Council Chambers Hall on Tuesday evening.
The school division as a whole is listed above projections as of this week by 32 students, at 2,534, while numbers for Meridian High are 23 higher at 886 and Henderson Middle School above 22 at 587 The only school at all below projected numbers was Mt. Daniel Elementary, down 15 to 465.
“The children did not arrive as expected” at this level, Noonan said, but he added that 20 students are now enrolled in the higher levels as city student tuition, and added that there are there are also some who are temporarily registered as children of the Circus Soleil troupe booked into a local hotel during a long series of nightly shows at Tysons.
“We hope that means there’s going to be a really great talent show here this fall,” he joked.
Overall, Noonan was very optimistic in his first report to the school board on the status of the new school year, which officially began with the opening of classes two weeks ago (August 29).
Marking his sixth year at the helm of the Falls Church system, Noonan said “it’s been one of the best ever because the last five have all involved some kind of existential stress” ranging from new construction issues schools, the pandemic and related issues. “It’s the first time that something hasn’t happened, and it seems very normal,” he joked.
He reported that, fortunately, “there has been no ‘big resignation’ impact on the Falls Church schools, as there are ‘only smiling faces’ as all teaching positions and staff are provided, including bus drivers, and all new teachers have been assigned mentors by fellow teachers.
He praised the convocation that drew more than 500 system workers last month, thanked school board chairwoman Laura Downs, the Falls Church Education Foundation and city council member Marybeth Connelly for their pioneering roles, and highlighted the role of a panel of students at the event. held in the new Meridian Auditorium which was themed “how can we find joy again” in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and other inconveniences.
He said that while the spread of Covid-19 is not over, “it is now being treated as ‘endemic’ and not a pandemic.
Asked by board member Tate Gould how the opening of the Falls Church system compares to surrounding jurisdictions, Noonan said he would hear more at a regional superintendents meeting next week, but based on media reports, the Falls Church system, due to its size and priorities, has been “very lucky”, avoiding the teacher and staff shortages that continue to plague its much larger neighbors who still have hundreds unfilled faculty and staff positions.
“All our teachers and bus drivers are in place here,” Noonan said. “We are settling in now and things are going very well.”
Among the items the school board addressed on Tuesday was to give preliminary agreement to a new school calendar action that codifies the development of future school calendars. “The proposed policy moves the division to a more secular schedule by recognizing fall/Thanksgiving, winter, and spring holidays and requires all other non-student holidays to be federal holidays or those required by law of the state. The first day of school would be two weeks before Labor Day and the last day of school no later than June 10,” it was reported.
The Board will continue to receive written comments on the proposed policy via email and public comment at future meetings and the matter is scheduled for a final vote at the October 11 regular meeting.