On Tuesday morning, 1,437 South County Middle School seventh and eighth graders walked into a new era.
Seventh-grader Jaelize Gomez, 12, was anxious before entering the school. "I'm excited and nervous," Gomez said to Patch. "It's a new school, it's huge. I'm looking forward to drama, but I'm nervous about the homework. Sometimes it can take me an hour-and-a-half to finish."
Fairfax County School Board member Dan Storck, who represents the Mount Vernon District, was also on-hand when school opened. "Can you believe this? Golly!" said Storck. "You just can't imagine how amazed I am that we are actually standing in front of South County Middle School on the first day at school. The South County community and the School Board did what many thought was impossible."
Capacity at the 40-acre middle school is 1,350 students. "The interesting thing is that our enrollment projections five to six years ago were relatively flat," said Jack Dale, Fairfax County Public Schools superintendent. "Last year we had 15,000 new students in Fairfax County Public Schools. We still project 2,000-3,000 new students per year every year, but that's county-wide."
In 2008, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors allocated $10 million to the school system to build an addition to South County Secondary School (which is now a high school due to the opening of the middle school), which packed the building over capacity with middle and high school students. That same year, the Board voted to build a new school instead, and saved $35 million by using the development plans for Glasgow Middle School and swapping land with the Fairfax County Park Authority.
South County Middle School Principal Marsha Manning greeted students at the front door on Tuesday morning. "The staff and I are just very excited. Most of all, we're looking forward to continuing a sense of community we had in South County Secondary School," she said. "We want to encourage people to be the best they can be."