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Our teachers are experts in elementary and early childhood education, and they have been been intentional and thoughtful in designing innovative and developmentally appropriate curricula. They have been dreaming of a schedule where our students have fewer transitions during the school day and can dive deeper into their learning. Our new schedule will provide time for our students to more authentically experience our curriculum and grapple with the essential questions and enduring understandings that define the unique Saints learning experience.

Jalene Spain Thomas
Lower School Director

Our Youngest Saints

There is nothing quite like the energy and enthusiasm of our youngest Saints as they run down the sidewalks into the school buildings in the morning. Rain or shine, snow or heat, the genuine joy that radiates from our students is palpable. And that energy never dissipates. Joyful laughter and music resonate off the walls; that perfect, specific sound of a pencil scratching across paper can be heard in the silence of a room full of students concentrating on their creating, researching, and problem-solving. The Lower School is a place of constant motion and excitement. There is learning in every moment, and there are moments yet undiscovered where learning will take on new and amazing dimensions.

During the design of the new Lower School schedule, that energy, those potential moments, and the boundless curiosity of our students remained at the center of the process. What should we be doing as educators to ensure that we are providing an engaging, creative, collaborative, and academically stimulating environment for our talented and inquisitive students?
 

Oh, the possibilities!

Our new Lower School schedule was developed using five guiding principles: maximize quality learning time, healthy pace for students, collaboration time, community time, and access to program. We imagine that the effect of the new schedule and the ensuing opportunities for our students will fuel their already overwhelming excitement at being a Saint!

Maximize Quality Learning Time/Collaboration Time
The new schedule will be a seven-day rotation which will give students more time in their homerooms for reading and writing workshops, mathematical explorations, and problem-solving. Homerooms are special places at the Lower School; the walls are covered with photos and drawings, dreams and goals for the year, and classroom rules and expectations developed by the students for their collective homeroom family. Increased homeroom time means deeper engagement in our core academic subjects to continue to develop the foundation for academic excellence.

Healthy Pace to the Day
The seven day rotation spreads things out, lengthens the time the students have working in the classroom, while decreasing how often students are moving from place to place or homerooms to special classes. Lower School students will have the chance to take a deep breath and dive deeper into their learning in these longer classroom periods. Students will live in the moment, they will learn in the moment. A multi-day schedule also opens up opportunities for more dedicated playtime during which our young students can recharge through imaginative play and games.

Access to Program
One of the most exciting components of the new schedule is the Expedition Day, or XDay that occurs once in the seven-day rotation. On those days special teachers will work closely with homeroom teachers on activities, integrated learning, and field work during field trips. Students will have the ability to spend extended periods of time delving deep into curriculum and learning, working on projects, or participating in grade-level, divisional, or JK-12 events. Imagine the possibilities! Students could spend an entire day working on a design-thinking project with the support of their science or art teacher, or classes studying government could spend the day in the field, learning from city or state officials. XDays will bring the classroom work of all the other days together, in a real, tangible way that will excite and inspire students. And since all students and teachers in the Lower School will have the same schedule on a XDay, the day provides time for within and across-grade collaboration without interruption.
 
Community Time
The Lower School embraces the Responsive Classroom© approach, which is the cornerstone of building strong classroom communities that support students' positive friendships and social/emotional growth. More time in the homeroom will allow for more reading and writing workshops, mathematical explorations, and problem-solving, and there will be dedicated time for morning meetings and closing meetings each afternoon; homerooms will start the day together sharing with one another, and they will conclude their day in the same way, listening and talking with one another. Additionally, each morning before the start of the school day, teachers and administrators will participate in a Professional Learning Community (PLC). The PLCs will enable teams of teachers and administrators to connect in a regular and dedicated way to plan together, reflect on and revise curriculum, evaluate assessment data, and collaborate to support students. The PLC period will also enable teachers to participate in committee work focusing on whole school initiatives, planning, the development of assessment tools, and the further refinement of our curriculum. This time together for the teachers will tremendously increase the impact they will be able to have on individual students and their needs.
 

Sample Lower School Schedules

Junior Kindergarten

Second Grade

Fifth Grade

Schedule At-a-Glance

  • 7-Day Rotating Schedule
  • 7th Day: Expedition Day (XDay)
  • 8:20 a.m. Carpool Begins
  • 8:30 a.m. School Day Begins
  • 3:15 p.m. Dismissal Begins
  • Morning Meeting and Closing Circle Each Day
  • Chapel every Thursday

Lower School Schedule FAQs

List of 8 frequently asked questions.

  • How will my child know what day it is in the multi-day schedule?

    The day in the schedule will be posted on classroom webpages and on the school website/calendar. Additionally the day will be prominently displayed on the screens in the foyer of each building and in the classrooms.
  • What time does school start for my child?

    Carpool will begin rolling at 8:20 a.m., and children will need to be in class by 8:30 a.m. There will be free supervised morning care beginning at 7:45 a.m. You may also enroll your child in the extended day morning session starting at 7:00 a.m., for a fee.
     
  • What time will the school day end for my child?

    All children across the LS will end school at 3:15 p.m. We will not have a staggered dismissal for MacKinnon and McBride children. Carpool will run from 3:15 to 3:30 p.m.
  • What is an Expedition Day?

    An Expedition day or ‘XDay’ occurs once in a seven-day cycle. There are no specials classes on XDays, instead specials teachers work closely with homeroom teachers on activities, integrated learning, and field work during field trips. Students will have the ability to spend extended periods of time delving deep into curriculum and learning, work on projects, or participate in grade level/ whole school events. Since all students and teachers in the LS will have the same schedule on an Xday, the day also provides time for within and across grade collaboration without interruption.

    We envision there will be seven or so XDays per trimester. These will be fixed in advance and may incorporate current whole school events (for example Thanksgiving, Saints Mission Day) that traditionally have taken us off schedule.
     
  • Why are the blocks 45 minutes long?

    All specials classes will have 45-minute periods (including transition time) with the new schedule. This extended period will enable specialist teachers to deeply connect with curriculum, and support active learning and engagement in the classroom.
  • How will the Responsive Classroom manifest in the new schedule?

    Our Responsive Classroom approach will remain an important part of the Lower School experience. Our new schedule will include dedicated times in homerooms for morning and closing meetings each day. These meetings will support the building of classroom community and the forwarding of our social-emotional curricula.
  • What will Chapel look like in the new schedule?

    Although we will have a rotating schedule, Chapel will be held weekly on Thursday mornings, 8:40 a.m.-9:15 a.m.
  • Why are there two times a day dedicated to play?

    Recess/play time has been shown to improve students’ classroom performance and creative thinking skills, and students benefit cognitively, physically, and socially from free play. As we designed the new schedule, we were conscious of the need to provide regular ‘brain breaks’ and activity to support academic work in the classroom. Students will have a morning and afternoon recess but they will no longer have a recess at lunchtime. With our ongoing focus on wellness, students will have a quiet downtime or ‘quiet quest’ either at the end or beginning of their lunch period.
     

JK-12 Schedule FAQs

List of 3 frequently asked questions.

  • What is a Professional Learning Community?

    PLC stands for a Professional Learning Community. These meetings provide a regular and predictable opportunity for teachers to work collaboratively to develop and refine curriculum. Vibrant and robust PLC programs have been shown to improve the learning experiences of students and have been shown to elevate student achievement in several studies.
  • What happens in the event of a snow day?

    The daily rotation continues, skipping that particular day in the cycle. For example, if school is closed on Day 2 and 3, when the students return to school they would follow the schedule for Day 4 of the cycle. 
  • What was the process for developing the new schedule?

    The schedule revision work was an intensive 24-month process that began in 2016. The work was lead by a collaborative team comprised of faculty and administrators and assisted through the counsel of an external schedule consultant. In advance of the design work, the faculty developed two important framing documents (i.e., Hallmarks of Teaching Excellence and Values of Time) that were aligned with the mission of the school. These documents helped us set revision priorities and guided our thinking during the process. Our faculty and students completed climate and culture surveys, developed by Independent School Management, to help us better understand the needs of students in our community. Our faculty also ‘shadowed’ students to experience the daily schedule from a students perspective. From this work, a set of five guiding principles emerged that would drive the schedule revision process: Access to Program, Community Time, Maximize Quality Learning Time, Collaboration Time, and Healthy Pace for Students.
JK-12 coed Episcopal day school in Alexandria, Virginia

Campuses

List of 3 items.

  • Lower School

    Grades: JK-5
    400 Fontaine Street
    Alexandria, Virginia 22302
  • Middle School

    Grades: 6-8
    4401 West Braddock Road
    Alexandria, Virginia 22304
  • Upper School

    Grades: 9-12
    1000 St. Stephen's Road
    Alexandria, Virginia 22304