New Year Highlighted by 'Green' Schools, College Preparation

August 31, 2009
New School Year Highlighted by Opening of William B. Gibbs, Jr. Elementary School, Focus on Preparation for College with Seven Keys to College Readiness

Newly Modernized Francis Scott Key Middle Designated Gold LEED Facility

The opening of one new and three modernized schools and a focus on college preparedness are highlights as Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) begins the 2009–2010 school year on August 31.

The school year kicked off with the second annual MCPS Back-to-School Fair for students and their families. Thousands of people attended the event, held on Saturday, August 29, at the school system’s headquarters in Rockville.

On the first day of school, approximately 142,000 students will be greeted by more than 11,500 teachers—about 550 of them new to the school system this year. Approximately 19 percent of the new teachers are MCPS graduates. In addition, school gets under way with 16 new principals, 50 assistant principals and 7 assistant school administrators. On Monday, 1,118 buses will pick up approximately 96,000 students. Each day, MCPS buses travel approximately 100,000 miles—equivalent to four trips around the equator.

Both students and teachers participated in a range of programs and trainings over the summer, including a weeklong orientation for new educators in August. More than 3,000 MCPS staff members, including teachers, administrators, and support professionals, participated in more than 20,000 hours of training this summer in preparation for the opening of school.

“I am looking forward to a great school year for our students and families,” said Shirley Brandman, president of the Board of Education. “Our outstanding teachers, supporting services employees and administrators have been working hard to prepare for the new school year and are ready to provide all our students with a challenging and rigorous academic program.”

Seven Keys to College Readiness

MCPS has created a new, comprehensive, and user-friendly set of resources to ensure that every parent knows the pathway to college readiness. First launched last spring, the pathway, called “Seven Keys to College Readiness,” identifies seven important milestones that show how students are progressing along the path to college.

The “Seven Keys to College Readiness” is a groundbreaking initiative that is research-based. MCPS has launched a major public awareness campaign in six languages to help all families know what steps they need to follow to help their children be ready for the rigors of college when they graduate from high school. The campaign includes parent workshops, a brochure distributed to all families, and a comprehensive website (, all in multiple languages. The site features a wide array of multimedia resources with background on each of the seven key academic benchmarks, beginning with the need for students to read at an advanced level in kindergarten.

Each of the Seven Keys is based on research that identifies academic milestones that can effectively predict the likelihood of a student being on the path to college readiness.

“The graduation rate in MCPS is the highest among the 50 largest school systems in the nation, and nearly 50 percent of our graduates receive a bachelor’s degree within six years, compared with only 27.5 percent nationwide,” Superintendent Jerry D. Weast said. “The Seven Keys provide a pathway that will help even more of our students achieve success in college. Our goal is 80 percent college-ready.”

New school and modernizations
The new William B. Gibbs, Jr. Elementary School this year brings the total number of MCPS schools to 200—131 elementary, 38 middle, 25 high and 6 special schools. The enrollment capacity at Gibbs of 737 students will relieve overcrowding at Cedar Grove, Clarksburg and Little Bennett elementary schools.

Francis Scott Key Middle School has reopened after receiving a complete modernization. It has been designated a Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building, certified through the United States Green Building Council. Cashell and Bells Mill elementary schools also were completely modernized. Both Cashell and Gibbs elementary schools are on track to receive Gold LEED designations later in the fall.

These and other major capital projects completed during the summer add 439,930 square feet of new and renovated space to MCPS facilities. Other projects include a new science wing at Poolesville High School, home of the upcounty science, mathematics and computer science magnet program; a new gym at Meadow Hall Elementary School; classroom additions at Washington Grove Elementary School, Thomas W. Pyle Middle School, and Bethesda-Chevy Chase High school; site improvement at Northwood High School; and ongoing improvements at Walter Johnson High school, scheduled for completion in December of this year.

Special education
For special education students, an hours-based staffing model has been expanded to an additional 15 middle schools, for a total of 31 middle schools. The expansion, as well as additional services to high-poverty Title I schools, were made possible through Federal stimulus money through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Hours-based staffing is designed to ensure equitable distribution of special education staff at each school and provide a high quality instructional program to support students with disabilities in the general education environment.

In addition, autism services are being expanded to middle school. Cabin John and Gaithersburg middle schools are the sites for these services. The Collaborative Autism Prekindergarten classes are now available in six elementary schools.

Family and Community Partnerships
The Department of Family and Community Partnerships has moved to a new, more accessible location in Room 50 of the school system’s headquarters building at 850 Hungerford Drive in Rockville. The office is home to “Ask MCPS” events, when parents are invited to drop by and ask questions, pick up resources and get help using Edline and other online tools.

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