Arlington school officials met last week with representatives of federal agencies, businesses and community groups to discuss how Arlington's 15-month-old "Adopt-a-School" program is working.
The consensus among the roughly 40 individuals who attended the forum is that the program is a hit. An exchange between schools and local organizations, it is designed to help students take advantage of the resources and expertise of local businesses, government and civic groups. The program has encouraged Arlington organizations to form partnerships with specific county schools. Volunteers from those adopting agencies then provide students with services including private tutoring, lectures and tours of their workplace.
"I have always thought that volunteers are the jewel in the crown in Arlington's school system," said School Board member Dorothy Stambaugh, who attended the meeting. "This program is one of the rare gems."
Although the program did not officially get going in Arlington until February 1984, some county schools had been working informally with neighboring organizations for several years. Glebe Elementary has had a tutoring program with volunteers from the Naval Sea Systems Command since 1980.
According to Daniel Brown, director of schools/community relations and coordinator of the "Adopt-a-School" program, Arlington School Superintendent Charles Nunley and Brown worked together to turn informal volunteer efforts into a full-fledged school program toward the end of 1983. Brown said their efforts were aided by President Reagan's endorsement of a national program.
Fifteen of the county's 28 schools have been adopted by groups including the Department of the Interior, the Marine Corps at Henderson Hall, the office of Sen. Paul S. Trible Jr. (R-Va.), the Peace Corps and the Williamsburg Civic Association. Brown said five other organizations have given commitments to adopt schools and the school system is trying to attract other groups.
"I'd like to see every school adopted," Nunley said. "Money's not available like it was in the 1970s. We're going to have to learn to produce more with less. Business and industry can help."
Brown said the school system is aiming to have every school adopted by December. He said that organizations interested in participating should contact his office.
Brown estimated that the program has involved about 450 volunteers since it got going offically. He said, on the average, volunteers give between one and three hours of their time each week helping students.
Margery Tracy, principal of Long Branch Elementary School, was the first to speak at last week's forum. She told the group how volunteers from the nearby Defense Communications Agency have tutored students, run computer labs at the school and given students tours of the agency since official adoption over a year ago.
"It adds another facet to the educational program," Tracy said. She also thinks it benefits the volunteers. "It raises their personal awareness of what's going on in education."
Col. William Dabney, who spoke at the meeting as a representative of the Marine Corps at Henderson Hall, said he too felt the program is beneficial to volunteers. Since Henderson Hall adopted nearby Barcroft Elementary School a year ago, volunteers have conducted summer tutoring sessions, helped out at school field days and plan to volunteer the necessary manpower to rebuild the school's playground one day this spring. Over the school year, five or six marines have spent their lunch hour once a week playing with students during their sports period.
Dabney said the Marine base is filled with men who are away from home and are sometimes lonely for a sense of family and community.
"I'm not sure who adopted whom," he laughed.