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School Officials Prepare for Coppermine Elementary

School will be fifth elementary in three-mile radius.

Residents of the Floris area of Fairfax County will be the prime beneficiaries of the new elementary school set to open its doors near Coppermine and River Birch Roads for the 2009 school year.

The school, known under its pre-development name Coppermine Elementary School, will look to free up classroom space and handle the incoming students of the growing western Fairfax County population in coming years by accepting as many as 900 students from Kindergarten to sixth grade, according to Gary Chevalier, director of facilities planning for Fairfax County Public Schools. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the plans for the school in June.

"What we’re hoping is that Coppermine [Elementary School] will give some relief to McNair [Elementary School], but will also be able to have the capacity to deal with more families moving to the area," Chevalier said. "I think that what you’re going to see is that it will relieve some of the crowding in these schools that already exists, and with the growth potential that the area has, this will work to accommodate those numbers."

Aside from McNair, which sits less than a mile away from the approved site for the new school, other schools that may be affected after boundaries are redrawn include Oak Hill and Floris Elementary Schools and, although less likely, Hutchison Elementary School, according to Chevalier.

The school’s addition could also give more options to some of the students who have transferred out of McNair and into the Fox Mill and Oak Hill Elementary Schools due to stipulations in the No Child Left Behind Act, he added.

THE BOUNDARIES that will determine what neighborhoods will send their children to the new school are to be redrawn by Fairfax County Public Schools officials and members of the community during town hall meetings that are scheduled to take place this fall.

"We’re going to quite literally pull out a map and a piece of paper and go about drawing these lines," Chevalier said. "In a town meeting, the group will look at where the students are coming from and we’ll move to make a decision based on that information."

The boundaries should be tentatively set by the end of the year, and will go to the Fairfax County School Board for review and approval in the first months of 2009, according to Chevalier.

During that process, a permanent name, some school programming and a principal will be chosen, he added. The school is scheduled to begin construction in the fall of 2008.

The school is expected to move its students on to nearby Rachel Carson Middle School who will "probably" then go on to Westfield High School, with a potential for some to move on to South Lake High School, according to Chevalier.

THE INCREASED SCHOOL capacity that will be brought to the area with the addition of Coppermine Elementary School will bring "space and flexibility" to McNair Elementary School according to principal Janet LeBel. McNair Elementary School already is using a modular six-classroom unit and four individual trailers to house students and free up more educational space.

"We are really over capacity as it is," LeBel said. "We’re already using all of our available space, and if we were to continue to grow, we would need to add more [trailers]."

Oak Hill principal Amy Goodloe welcomes the possibility of opening up more learning space at her school, but cannot say to what extent the new addition will directly affect her school’s numbers. Oak Hill is already home to a six-room modular add-on and three separate trailers, she said.

"We really can’t say how we will be affected, it really is depending on where the boundaries are drawn," Goodloe said. "A big portion of our school is the GT [Gifted and Talented] Center, so how that will affect our numbers is still yet to be seen."

The addition is a mixed blessing for LeBel, entering her second year as principal at McNair.

"While it’s exciting to see the new school coming, it’s never exciting to lose families that are a part of the school," she said. "The important thing is to make sure that there are good facilities for our community’s children to learn in."