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by Christina Davis
Special to The Greater Olney News
Flower Valley Elementary School in Rockville will host a 50th anniversary Celebration and Carnival May 21, celebrating its commitment to providing quality education to all children that began when the school opened in 1966.
“We have great kids, great staff and a great PTA,” said kindergarten teacher Dawn Audibert, who has been at Flower Valley since 1990. “People ask why I’ve stayed at one school for so long, but why would I go anywhere else?”
In the two decades that Celia Choi has been the Flower Valley art teacher, the school has maintained its shining reputation among families and staff, she said.
“When I interviewed for the art position  years ago, there was stiff competition,” she said. “Luckily, I was hired as the art teacher, and I feel blessed to be part of such a supportive school community.”
The size of the student population has increased as new homes have been added to the community. When Audibert started, the school served 400 to 425 students; there are now more than 500 students at the school.
A few other aspects of Flower Valley have changed in five decades, too. The school facilities have been expanded and modified. In 1970, six classrooms were added; in 1995, Montgomery County invested $4.5 million in modernizing the building.
Today, the school has 22 full-size classrooms, an all-purpose room, a media center, a computer lab, a portable classroom and a gymnasium.
The school has been represented by a few mascots since 1966: sunflower, bulldog, frog and falcon. Five years ago, the students voted for a new mascot, and the firefly became the new face of Flower Valley.
In addition to students from the local community, Flower Valley supports a program for students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing (approximately 16 students), as well as a program for students with emotional disabilities (approximately 20 students).
Flower Valley is the only elementary school in Montgomery County Public Schools that teaches children who are deaf or hard-of-hearing with Cued Speech, an alternative to American Sign Language.
Principal Gay Melnick has been proactive about creating a positive environment for the children and their families since she joined the Flower Valley team five years ago.
“When I came to Flower Valley, I wanted to prioritize a peaceful and friendly school environment where all children feel safe,” she said.
In addition to being peaceful and friendly, Flower Valley students are encouraged to take responsibility for their school and community.
Grade 3 students are invited to be on the School Energy and Recycling Team (SERT), which monitors the use of energy and recycling paper and plastic within the school.
Fourth- and fifth-graders are invited to be part of the Student Government Association (SGA), which is involved in community service and school spirit activities. Under the supervision of Anne Hauprich and Mijgaan Shekeb, the SGA raised over $6,000 this winter to fund research on H-ABC and support a classmate with the condition.
Many fifth-graders are school safety patrol members and assist in keeping other students safe as they enter and exit the school building.
Flower Valley students have other opportunities for enrichment. All grades perform in the PTA’s International Night. Fourth- and fifth-graders can learn how to play an instrument through the instrumental music program. Every other year, the school puts on a variety show and fifth-graders perform in a musical each fall, which is directed by music teacher Theresa Kormann.
Flower Valley is also home to an active Girls on the Run club, a nonprofit that aspires to inspire young women and promote healthy and fit lifestyles.
With the help of the PTA, the school fosters student interest in science, technology, engineering and math and holds an annual PTA STEM Fair. The staff organizes a yearly STEM Day.
David Chung, Flower Valley PTA president for 2015-2017, said the parent-teacher organization “takes a great deal of pride in supporting our teachers, staff and most of all, the children who attend Flower Valley.”
He said the school community is excited about the 50th anniversary celebration and invites the community to “see why Flower Valley Elementary School is a true gem and cornerstone of our community.”
Flower Valley Elementary School’s 50th anniversary Carnival will be held 1-4 p.m. May 21 at the school. Tickets are $5 per school-age child (kindergarten through grade 12) or $15 per family. The carnival will feature inflatable activities, games, a silent auction, food trucks, student artwork, performances by local youths, a photo booth, and a display of photographs, yearbooks and memorabilia from the past 50 years.
To purchase tickets, donate items, be part of the commemorative path with an engraved brick, or for more information, visit www.fvespta.org.
Christina Davis is a parent at Flower Valley Elementary School.
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