WSES Named a 2020 Purple Star School
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West Springfield Elementary School is proud to have been recognized by the Virginia Department of Education and the Virginia Council on the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children as a 2020 Purple Star school. The Purple Star designation is awarded to military-friendly schools that have demonstrated their commitment to meeting the needs of military-connected students and their families.
WSES earned the Purple Star recognition though a commitment to meeting the needs of military students by providing resources and programming on issues important to military families, such as academic planning and transitions between schools, districts, and states. Kimberly O’Connor, school counselor, serves as the point of contact for military students and the primary link between the military family and the school. She says,
“We recognize the importance of supporting our military families- as we have over 140 military-connected kids at WSES. These kids and families bring with them a resilience, excitement and understanding of different cultures and ways of life that positively impacts us all.”
The average military family relocates 6-8 times while children are in grades K-12. Recognizing the impact that every move has on each family member is key to implementing services and resources to help them acclimate to their new surroundings.
Even before school begins, WSES parents participate in a new family welcome meeting to orient themselves to the school community. An additional meeting is held specifically for our military families that provides them with information about community resources, connects them with current WSES military families, and helps new families connect with each other. Families that enroll after school starts receive a welcome phone call from a current WSES military parent, and are provided a link to our website and print out of resources.
WSES also has an established Student Ambassadors program, where students have been trained on giving tours of our building and being a buddy to new students. On the first day a new student arrives, Student Ambassadors take the new student and parents on a tour of our school, introduce them to key staff members, serve as their buddy, and answer questions as they transition to our school. New students also participate in small lunch bunches with the school counselor where they can meet their peers and discuss any questions/issues they have as they transition to the school.
West Springfield works to ensure its military students and families are supported and valued throughout their time at the school. School counselors host deployment groups for parents and students. WSES also hosts an annual Veteran’s Day assembly and concert that brings hundreds of community and family members together in recognition of the service and sacrifice of military members and their families. Every April, the staff and community participate in “Purple Up Day” to show support of military families. And, when students must leave, WSES staff works to support the transition to a new school.
Kimberly O’Connor says, “We are excited to have the Purple Star proudly displayed in the WSES lobby.” At the same time, she and the school continue to work to find additional ways to support students, including working with staff at Fort Belvoir to help ensure additional counselors available to assist with deployment groups and other supports in the WSES school community.