A new Catholic elementary school opens its doors in Silver Spring on Tuesday

August 27, 2010

Balloons, banners and enthusiastic teachers will welcome nearly 500 students on their first day at the new Saint Francis International School, an innovative new Catholic elementary school conceived by two local principals and their pastors to prepare students to live and work in a global society:

Tuesday, August 31
7:45 a.m. Students arrive
8:00 a.m.-8:20 a.m. Prayers and welcome (Camilla Room)
10:30 a.m. New Catholic school superintendent (Dr. Bert L’Homme) visits
St. Francis International School
1500 St. Camillus Drive
Silver Spring, MD 20903

The school will offer a curriculum that is linked across grades. Students will be at least bilingual by the time they graduate eighth grade, and a new integrated curriculum will teach critical thinking, teamwork, ethics, technology and other skills to help students understand and respect different cultures, and to effectively communicate and work with people from diverse backgrounds. The students themselves are diverse, with families coming from 56 different nations.

The concept for St. Francis International was initiated by two local principals, Toby Harkleroad and Matt Russell, of St. Camillus School in Silver Spring and St. Mark School in Hyattsville, when they joined forces last year. At the time, each principal was heading up separate 250-student schools located three miles apart, but they saw the opportunity to create something entirely new by working together and sharing resources to create a single large school. They worked closely with their pastors, faculty and local communities, with support by the Archdiocese of Washington, to bring the concept from drawing board to reality.

The response has been extraordinary, with full enrollment and a waiting list for pre-school. Initially located on the former St. Camillus campus, with some events and recreational activities at St. Mark, the intent is to expand to two campuses in the coming years.

Students will find some familiar faces at the new school – 80 percent of the faculty were previously at St. Camillus or St. Mark and between 70 and 90 percent of the students from those schools registered to go to St. Francis International, but there also will be changes. Students will be sporting new uniforms that were chosen after extensive input from families, the school building has had a facelift and the school received 150 new applications for open slots.

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