Washington Mill ES students are united under one roof


Washington Mill ES Principal Brad Bennink shows off a new classroom at the school.

The students and staff at Washington Mill Elementary School in Mount Vernon have something to celebrate, according to school principal Brad Bennink.

“For the first time that I can remember, all our students had classes today in the same building!” wrote Bennink in an Oct. 11 message to families.

Washington Mill’s renovation was a long time in coming. First approved for Fairfax County Public Schools’ (FCPS) renovation queue in 2009, the school fell off it in early 2015, according to Mount Vernon District School Board Representative Karen Corbett Sanders. Corbett Sanders worked with school officials and the local community to get Washington Mill back in the running for renovation, and in 2017 and 2019, it received the necessary bond funding.

Entrance hallway at Washington Mill ES

In early 2021, the school board approved a contract in the amount of $19.28 million for Meridian Construction to build an addition to the school and renovate other sections of the facility. Now that the building is complete, Washington Mill students and staff have officially vacated its modular units and trailers, uniting under one roof.

The new school is “so amazing and such a breath of fresh air,” Corbett Sanders told parents at a recent parent teacher association (PTA) meeting in the renovated school cafeteria.

Besides featuring new classrooms, the school has a lot of natural light, including in the gymnasium. These improvements “send a powerful message to families and students that we care about you,” said Corbett Sanders. She credited Bennink, school staff and PTA members with supporting students and advocating for change.

The school gymnasium features natural lighting.

At the height of the school’s overcrowding — during the 2017-18 school year — Washington Mill’s capacity utilization was 116%. Since then, it has fallen to 100%, and FCPS anticipates it will decline to 83% by the 2026-27 school year.

Bennink, who has served as principal of Washington Mill since 2013, confirmed that enrollment has been down somewhat since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In September 2019, Washington Mill had a student population of 591, but enrollment fell to 540 students in September 2022, FCPS data shows.

Now that the school no longer needs modular units or trailers for classrooms, it is waiting for them to be removed. Once that occurs, Washington Mill can continue with its external construction projects, which include a playground and some athletic fields, said Bennink.

The colorful art room at Washington Mill ES

Noting that students weren’t the only ones “anxiously awaiting the new building,” Bennink invited families to take guided tours of the new facility during a Trunk or Treat event held at the school last week.

Washington Mill Elementary School is located at 9100 Cherrytree Drive in Alexandria.

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