School Superintendent Highlights Innovation in Talk to Chamber of Commerce.
Speaking before the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 14, Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) superintendent Eric Williams presented an update on county public school priorities. He announced that full-day kindergarten had expanded to approximately 51 percent of those eligible for the 2016-2017 school year, including 100 percent of low income, special education and English as a second language students.
“The conversation about full-day kindergarten has shifted from a conversation on ‘should we?’ to ‘when?’,” Williams said.
Four years ago only 11 percent of the county had access to full day kindergarten, Williams said. He said the school system expects 75 percent of students to have access to full day kindergarten by next school year, 80 percent the year after that and 85 percent by school year 2018-2019.
The biggest obstacles are money and classroom space, Williams said. LCPS can get to that 85 percent threshold with existing class space, but will need more classrooms beyond current plans to reach 100 percent.
Williams also announced plans for a new school to open in each of the next few years. That follows the opening of Madison’s Trust Elementary School this school year and three schools in the year prior.
Among the schools set to open is the new conjoined school for Loudoun’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics oriented academies. The school will consolidate the career tech program at Monroe Advanced Technology Academy, the Academy of Science at Dominion High School and the newly formed Academy of Engineering and Technology at Tuscarora High School. Students in these programs will attend classes at the new three-story academy building every other day, alternating between there and their home school.
For this school year, Williams said LCPS enrollment is nearly 79,000 students, up 3,000 from last year. Enrollment increases cost the school system $32 million alone last year, mainly for salaries for more teachers.
Williams gave the updates as part of a broader presentation on innovation in education, and noted that the school board adopted a new mission statement of “empowering all students to make meaningful contributions to the world.”
He cited Park View High School student Gabriel Fillippini designing a 3D-printed prosthetic hand for his younger brother, Lucas Fillippini, as an example of the innovative and entrepreneurial skills the school system is trying to instill in its students. He also referenced a video by LCPS highlighting achievements by other county students.
“We want students to learn the content of the curriculum, but it’s not just about preparing for a state test,” Williams said. “We’ve said to teachers in Loudoun that we need to give ourselves permission to re-capture the joy of teaching and learning.”