‘Ready to learn’: New elementary school opens in fast-growing Loudoun Co.

Living in one of the region’s fastest-growing, affluent communities comes with benefits and the potential challenge of helping students feel connected, if they have to change schools.

“Loudoun County opens about a new school each year,” says Ashley Ellis, deputy superintendent of Loudoun County Public Schools, standing outside Hovatter Elementary School, in Aldie, Virginia, on the brand new school’s first day.

“People move to the area knowing that a boundary change is likely in their future, sometime during elementary or middle school,” Ellis said. “We do our best to keep students close to their home, and build a strong community with each new school that we open.”

Jeff Morse, school board member for the Dulles District, said the new school — built on former farmland owned by the Hovatter family — is in a quickly-changing area.

“This is the epicenter of the growth in Loudoun — it continues through the Blue Ridge District,” Morse said. “As the families continue to come in, we need more and more seats — this was essential to get Hovatter open this year.”

Principal Lori Mercer said the students in her new school come from two recently opened, nearby schools.

“We worked really hard to welcome our students who are joining us, primarily, from Goshen Post Elementary and Buffalo Trail Elementary,” Mercer said.

Goshen Post was dedicated in 2018; Buffalo Trail opened in 2011.

“We’d like to provide them with stability of one school through their entire elementary education,” Morse said. “Of course, that doesn’t always happen in areas that are quickly growing, like this one.”

Mercer, in her 27th year as an educator, agrees.

“Some students may be in third grade, and this could be their third school,” Mercer said.

She said engaging students is the most important part of helping them feel comfortable and connected.

“We do recognize that some may be apprehensive,” Mercer said. “So, it may take a little bit longer to make those connections, and make them feel safe, but when they feel trusted and heard by the adults who do have a calm presence, day by day it gets more easy, and they’re ready to learn.”

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