City of Falls Church

The following were among actions taken at the May 22 meeting of the Falls Church School Board. For more information, call 241-7648.

MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDY -- The relatively small number of students and small class sizes at the city's only middle school provide a strong sense of community and intimacy, but the building facilities, lunch meals and grading process may need improvement, according to a study presented to the board by a self-appointed committee of faculty, students and parents.

The middle school includes sixth- through eighth-graders, who share facilities with ninth- through 12th graders at George Mason Junior-Senior High School.

In an informal survey, students, parents and teachers praised the middle school, which has only 280 students and many classes no larger than 20 students, for its high level of availability of teachers to students and for the interdisciplinary teaching approach taken by teachers. Teachers consult with each other regularly to coordinate coursework and other activities for students.

However, when asked about changes needed in the middle school, many respondents said the building facility needs improvement. The building is cramped and outdated, with middle school and high school students and classes often getting in each other's way, they said.

Other suggestions by respondents included improving the school lunch program; changing the grading process, such as by grading a student's behavior separately from his academic performance; and making class schedules more flexible so that teachers may occasionally hold longer class periods.

To address some of these concerns, the committee recommended that school officials take temporary measures to improve the physical appearance of the middle school sections of George Mason as they continue planning a renovation of the entire building. Suggestions included reconditioning lockers, providing bulletin boards for student notices, cleaning the building more frequently, and decorating bare areas.

The committee also recommended improving the lunch program by offering more nutritious food and a more diverse menu, separate and longer eating periods for middle school students and high school students, using environmentally safe disposable dishes and utensils, and placing a receptacle in the cafeteria for recyclable trash.

The committee said that it is still evaluating the grading process and course scheduling, among other topics, and does not yet have specific recommendations.