Van Ness Elementary School


Family Update from the Head of School - October 14

I hope you were able to learn valuable information about your child’s progress last Friday during parent teacher conferences.  We are looking forward to welcoming our students back tomorrow. Here are the latest updates:


  • Kudos to all of our room parents who officially kicked off with their initial planning meeting last Monday.

  • Thanks to all our parents who supported our DC Scores team during the game against Amidon last Thursday.

  • Appreciation to Jason Herring and Mariana Martinez for spearheading new math and science enrichment programs for our upper elementary students!


Hispanic Heritage Month

This month we've been celebrating Hispanic Heritage. Students have learned about the winners of the Pura Belpre award during Spanish/Library class, made self-portraits in the style of Frida Kahlo during art class, have learned about Latino authors in the US, and many other lessons that acknowledge the contribution of Hispanic Americans and Latinos during this month of learning.

Parent Teacher Conferences

Hopefully you had a productive parent teacher conference on Friday!  If not, be sure to schedule a time to meet with your child’s teacher and then share feedback with us once the conference is complete.

Key Dates

View our key dates on the Van Ness website calendar at any time.  Here are upcoming dates:

  • Tuesday, October 15: APTT for 2nd grade at 5:30 pm

  • Saturday, October 19: Fall Festival from 2 to 5 pm

  • Thursday, October 24: Picture Day!

  • Friday, October 25: Family Friday at 8:25 and Coffee Chat at 8:45 am

  • Thursday, October 31: Book-o-ween (come in character, no covered faces, no candy please)

Have a great week!

Erin Morrison
Community Event - Pumpkins in the Park + Free Screening of Hocus Pocus

From our friends, Capitol Riverfront BID:

Pumpkins in the Park is back for its sixth year with a cauldron full of spooky new surprises! The Capitol Riverfront BID has brewed up an evening of wicked good times that are sure to have mischief-makers of all ages howlin' at the moon.

For the kiddos: bring your little monsters out to decorate their own pumpkins, play in the moon bounce, and get their faces painted (all for free)!

For the kids-at-heart: come make insta-worthy leaf wreaths, enjoy beer, wine, and cider (for purchase), and get your cards read by a real life fortune teller!

For the whole gang: the fall festivities don't end there! At the witching hour (6:00 pm), hop on your brooms and head across the street to catch a free screening of Hocus Pocus in the North Block. And for an extra treat, some bites will be available for purchase courtesy of Smorgasburg DC!

Don't forget to dress to impress! We will be handing out prizes throughout the day for best-dressed humans and howlers (that's "doggos" in Halloween-speak).

View more here!

Erin Morrison
Family Update from the Head of School - October 6

I hope you are looking forward to all of our upcoming October events!  Here are the latest updates:


  • Thank you to our LSAT for the productive first meeting last week!

  • Thanks to our PTO board for all of their supportive activities and for securing recent supply donations from local businesses and give-back nights at nearby restaurants. 


  • Email school staff at the new "" email addresses.  The previous "" email addresses will be sent to junk folders and will soon be discontinued completely.

  • Students should arrive at 8:25 am for breakfast.

  • Arrival time for the instructional day is 8:40 am.

  • Be sure to come on time and attend school regularly.  Academic achievement is directly linked to attendance daily at school.

Parent Teacher Conferences

Take advantage of this time to get to know your child’s teacher.  Conferences are officially this Friday, October 11, but many teachers are holding conferences throughout this week.  You’ll learn about your child’s strengths and growth areas, as well as ways you can support at home (specific strategies will be shared).  Don’t miss your chance to participate in fall conferences!

Childcare and camps during PTCs

  • On Friday Alphabest will provide childcare from 7 am to 6 pm.  Be sure to register in advance and send your child with a lunch and snack.

  • Capitol Kicks Soccer camp will take place in the Van Ness gym on conference day from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm. If you’d like one of our scholarships, please complete this form.  These are limited to 7 students in grade 1 to 4 and priority will be given to students receiving free and reduced price meals.   Complete the form by Tuesday, 10/8 and you will be notified by no later than Wednesday, 10/9 if your child has received a scholarship to attend.

Flu Season

As we enter fall, flu season is coming.  Please take a look at the DCPS recommendations for reducing the spread of flu and info on communicable diseases.  If your child is sick, please keep him or her at home to recover so that illness is not spread in the school and be sure to send a note to Ms. AC, our registrar, at

Neighborhood Nights at Slipstream 

For all of October, Slipstream (great neighborhood restaurant) has chosen to support our school at  their popular Neighborhood Nights held every Tuesday. It’s a great deal: a three course meal for $25.  Slipstream will give $1 per person dining to Van Ness. If you go, be sure to let them know you are a Van Ness family and appreciate their support.

Uniforms: Hoodies, Long-Sleeve Shirts, and Adult Tees

It’s getting cold and time to stock up on warm weather gear.  There are now hoodies and long sleeved t-shirts available. You can also get short sleeve t-shirts and baseball t-shirts for grown-ups!  Details on the website, or click here to order directly.

Fall Festival

Save the date for October 19 from 2 to 5 for our annual Fall Festival.  

  • Volunteer: Interested in volunteering?  Fill out this super short form to express your interest. More details on volunteering to follow. 

  • Family Photo: Want a family photo for the holidays? Sign-up is now open for family photo mini-sessions at Fall Festival.  Slots fill up fast for this popular fundraiser; one edited photo costs $40, all of which goes to the school! Reserve your slot here before they all fill up!


Van Ness Elementary invites students to dress up as their favorite book character on October 31.  Be sure to refrain from scary costumes and anything that covers the face or prevents your child from freely moving during the school day.  Students can bring and share the book that has their character as we focus on learning during this alternative-to-Halloween event. Please do not bring candy to school.

Key Dates

View our key dates on the Van Ness website calendar at any time.  Here are upcoming events:

  • Tuesday, October 8: APTT meetings at 5:30 pm

  • Friday, October 11: Parent Teacher Conferences

  • Monday, October 14: No school for students or staff

  • Saturday, October 19: Fall Festival from 2 to 5 pm

  • Thursday, October 24: Picture Day!

  • Thursday, October 31: Book-o-ween

Have a great week!

Erin Morrison
Family Update from the Head of School - September 30

I hope you enjoyed the neighborhood block party and our Otters in the Outfield events this past weekend!  Here are this week’s updates:


  • Enormous thanks to Dave Roberts for fronting the cost of 200 tickets to Saturday’s National’s game so that our school could both raise funds and build community between our families! 

  • Thanks to those who attended last Friday’s ‘Family Friday’ event and coffee chat.


  • Arrive at 8:25 am for breakfast and 8:40 am for the instructional day.

  • Refrain from going up to K-4 classrooms unless it is Family Friday.

  • Complete volunteer clearance process so you can help with field trips.

BOY Data

Last week we completed many of our beginning of the year assessments for K-4 students.  You will be receiving information on how your child is performing in the coming weeks, including during parent teacher conferences and APTT meetings.  If your child is below or far below grade level, you will also receive a letter from me with strategies to implement at home. With the DCPS graduation and promotion guidelines, many more students are at risk of retention at the end of the year if they are not meeting grade level standards.  We want families to have as much notice as possible so that you can spend the year working with your child(ren) and the beginning of the year data is our first data point to start with interventions, like our tutoring programs, as early in the school year as we can. 

Coffee Chat Notes

We had a strong turnout for our Coffee Chat after Family Friday.  Part of the time was spent generating topics to cover during future chats.  Here are the topics suggested in a draft schedule for our coffee chats this year.  Here are answers to some of the questions raised:

  • Why do we do greetings at the door?  Greetings help students feel welcome at school and help them to build connections with the adults in the building, including specials teachers and non-teaching staff members. It is a practice that helps the child to move into their ‘executive’ or self-regulated state if they have come to school upset or afraid.  Students are given a choice (often with a visual on the greeter’s apron) of hug, handshake, high five, smile, etc. The purpose of the choice is to ensure the child has control over whether his or her greeting involves physical touch or not. Some greeters know the students well and are ready with their preferred greeting, such as by having their hand up to receive a high five.  Learn more about the value of greetings in this short video (0:47) or this longer version (2:45).

  • Do we take away recess because of poor behavior? No. Classes receive daily 30 minutes of recess (required time according to District guidelines is 20 minutes).  In some instances, classes work to earn an extra afternoon recess, but this additional recess period is not required and may not always take place.  For individual students who show aggressive behavior, we have ‘structured recess’ with our behavior techs as a consequence.  

  • Do teachers complete incident forms after injuries? Yes. Teachers complete incident forms that are filed in the main office.  When students are injured they are taken to the nurse and the nurse calls parents to notify them.  Written documentation of the visit to the nurse is not sent home unless there is a specific request for this from parents.

  • What are the components of Conscious Discipline?  Does it work for difficult behaviors? Conscious Discipline is just one part of our overall approach to behavior and socio-emotional learning.  

    • CARE: We have CARE (compassion-assertiveness-routines-environment), which is a set of structures that help all students to be successful in school.  This includes our use of an assertive voice, clear visuals in the classrooms, a calm and welcoming room environment, and supports like the Safe Place in the classroom.  Conscious Discipline influences our approach to CARE. 

    • Boost: We also have Boost, which is a set of interventions for students who need more support.  These include movement breaks, specialized schedules and seating, and structured recess. For challenging behaviors, we offer support to students, but we also have consequences for poor behavior.  

    • Consequences: Conscious Discipline does NOT mean students are not held accountable when they do not behave appropriately.  If a child is hurtful to another child, physically aggressive, destroys property, leaves an area without permission, or is defiant or non-compliant, there are consequences for each of these behaviors that range from a written reflection to removal from the classroom to In-School-Suspension (ISS).  We implement most consequences that a traditional school would implement with the exception of out-of-school suspension.

  • What is the process to securely dismiss students, especially if an unknown person is picking up? PK students’ families sign in at security, sign in at the classroom door, and students leave with families as the teacher dismisses at 3:15 pm.  K-4 families pick up from the lobby or gym and do not have to sign in at security at dismissal. Teachers ask that families and students acknowledge the teacher (with a high five or a goodbye) so that teachers know when students are leaving with families.  If an unknown caregiver is picking up, the adult is asked to go to the main office and show an ID so that it can be checked against the emergency contact list in the office before a student is allowed to dismiss.

  • How can we ensure parents respect the security guards and sign in when requested? Parents are reminded to respond to requests from security guards such as to sign in, show ID, or refrain from going up to classrooms without permission.  This year LSAT will be asked to assist with the creation of a new ‘parent code of conduct’ so that norms can be established for how parents interact with each other and staff while at our school.

Walk to School Day

Join us at Canal Park as the Van Ness Family walks to school together!  Meet us on the south block of Canal Park (the block with the dancing fountains), and be greeted by the Van Ness PTO starting at 8 am.  Families should sign in so we can track the number of students who participate in Walk to School Day in hopes of winning the Department of Transportation’s Golden Sneaker Award.  Make sure to pick up a snack and a prize between 8 am and 8:30 am before walking the rest of the way to school. We hope to see you there!  

Key Dates

  • Wednesday, October 2: Walk to School Day

  • Tuesday, October 8: Academic Parent Teacher Team Meetings at 5:30 pm 

  • Friday, October 11: Parent Teacher Conferences

  • Monday, October 14: No school for students; no Alphabest

  • Saturday, October 19: Fall Festival from 2 to 5 pm

  • Thursday, October 24: Picture Day

Have a wonderful week!

Erin Morrison
Family Update from the Head of School - September 22

What an amazing Family BBQ we had on Friday.  This was such a fun event - huge thank you to our PTO for organizing and sponsoring this fabulous occasion. This will hopefully be the inaugural BBQ of many to come in the future.  


  • Appreciation to our PTO for the wonderful BBQ. 

  • Thanks to all who helped on Garden Day!

Garden Day: A note from Ms. Courtney and Ms. Aly

A heartfelt thank you to all the families that helped us get our garden up and running Saturday morning! The garden was full of people weeding, building, and hanging a chalkboard to keep track of our garden plots, building sifters for our compost, teaching and learning about composting, and in one instance even cutting down a dead tree! We will be working to create a family garden group: stay tuned for more information!


Please take time to get your background clearance so that you can chaperone field trips.  Some classes only have two cleared parents, which will make scheduling field trips for our students in those classes difficult this year.  Here is the guidance document on steps to take to get cleared. Additional info can also be found here:

Room Parents

Become a room parent! Express your interest here.

Key Dates

  • Monday, September 23: Family Night for 4th grade from 6 to 7:30 pm

  • Friday, September 27: Family Friday from 8:25 to 8:45 am

  • Friday, September 27: Parent Coffee Chat in the lobby from 8:45 to 9:30 am

  • Saturday, September 28: Block party at 1 pm and Otters in the Outfield at 4 pm

  • Wednesday, October 2: Walk to School Day

  • Saturday, October 19: Fall Festival

  • Thursday, October 24: Picture Day


Have a great week!


Erin Morrison