It’s a week of preparation in Loudoun.
The final touches on new and renovated school buildings will be made, student name tags will be carefully penned, and hundreds of buses will be tuned up and ready to roll.
Monday is the big day, when Loudoun County Public Schools will welcome a record 78,665 students—roughly 3,000 more than last year’s enrollment—and thousands of other students will return to the county’s private schools and homeschool programs for a new academic year.
This year is particularly monumental for Loudoun. The school division opens its second charter school, launches the new Academy of Engineering and Technology, and opens its 89th school, Madison’s Trust Elementary in Brambleton.
“As the new year approaches I tell students, ‘there’s a lot to look forward to,’” Superintendent Eric Williams said.
There also are 750 new teachers, selected from some of the best of the best at six job fairs and 25 recruiting events, Williams said. He also listed the expansion of a full school day to more than half of the county’s kindergartners and more technology in the classroom among the new developments this year.
More students will be provided tablets, laptops and smart phones to be used as part of class lessons, and more will be encouraged to bring their own devices to school with them. “We’ll have more devices in the classroom than ever before,” Williams said.
He also is nudging parents to use technology more. During a recent School Board meeting he encouraged families to download the new LCPS mobile app that was launched over the summer. The app will give users access to school menus, the lunch account software system, the student information management system, the online learning platform, sports information, calendars and social media feeds. Parents, students and teachers can also sign up for push notifications, such as emergency messages, to their phones.
New Year, New School
About 775 kids, and 100 employees, will call a brand new school home starting Monday.
Loudoun’s newest public school, Madison’s Trust Elementary, will provide desperate relief to some of the county’s most overcrowded school buildings. Five-hundred of its students were reassigned from neighboring Creighton’s Corner Elementary, which has operated above its building capacity for the past several years.
Even though the Brambleton area has undergone frequent attendance boundary changes, Madison’s Trust was one of those schools that was welcomed by the community with open arms, Principal David Stewart said.
“The reception has been 100 percent positive,” he added. “When the kids come in, they’re shocked. Everything is so new and shiny.”
Stewart takes the lead at Madison’s Trust after serving as principal at Guilford Elementary in Sterling for 10 years. It wasn’t easy leaving Guilford, but he’s always wanted to help establish a new school. “This is a different challenge that I was excited to try,” he said.
Since his first day on the job in February, he’s interviewed almost 300 applicants for teaching and support staff positions. As part of his dream team, he also recruited nine employees from Guilford to come with him to Madison’s Trust.
He also worked to have students help shape their new school even before the doors opened. He got their feedback on everything from the school colors to its mascot. In a poll, the students selected the Mighty Macaws as their mascot as a nod to U.S. President James Madison’s pet macaw. The school’s name captures the role Loudoun played in the War of 1812, when President Madison sought refuge in the county, along with important documents like the Constitution.
“Choosing furniture, a mascot, helping to shape a school—these are things that you don’t think you’ll get a chance to do in your career,” Stewart said. “It’s been a great experience and we’re ready for the first day.”
On Monday, the students will be ushered into the gymnasium for an all-school assembly. From the moment students walk in the door, Stewart wants them to feel like Madison’s Trust is their school. “That will be an important moment,” he said. “It’s really a chance to introduce ourselves to the students. … We want them all to feel comfortable and happy and to feel like this is their home.”