The Nokesville School’s principal, Eric Worcester, was principal of the old Nokesville Elementary School for the past three years. (Jim Barnes/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

When the Nokesville School opens Sept. 2, it will be the only public school in Prince William County to offer classes for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. One of the county’s two new public schools, it replaces the old Nokesville Elementary School, which closed in the spring. Eric Worcester, principal of the Nokesville School, served as principal of Nokesville Elementary for the past three years. A former special education and instructional technology resource teacher, Worcester previously served as assistant principal at Dale City and Fitzgerald elementary schools.

Worcester recently spoke with The Washington Post about the new school. An edited transcript of the conversation follows.

Why was the decision made to replace Nokesville Elementary with a K-8 school?

Nokesville is a very strong, wonderful, stable community. It was very important to them to have a school that represented this neighborhood and this area. When new schools are built in Prince William, they are often very large schools, and they house around the same number of students that we’re going to house here at the Nokesville School.

Also, middle schools in the area are over capacity. I think the community saw a great solution to alleviate some of the overcrowding at some nearby middle schools. So while we will have around 800 students our first year, we’ll still maintain that sense of community here at Nokesville. I think it’s a creative, innovative model for Prince William County, and this community has embraced that idea.

Will some students be coming over from other middle schools?

Yes. Our boundaries expanded with the new school. We’re primarily drawing from two other schools — Bennett Elementary School and Marsteller Middle School. There are two other middle schools that are impacted, but far less than Marsteller.

What outreach have you done for the parents and children from these other schools?

Between my professional school counselor, my middle school counselor and myself, we’ve gone to our different feeder schools. Personally, I went to Marsteller Middle School and Bennett Elementary to meet with students who will be coming here. We had a chance to give them a welcome and orientation, and just talk to them. It was great to see a lot of enthusiasm from the students. It can be tough transitioning schools.

Will the middle school students be in another part of the building, and will they move from one class to another?

I think that they designed this building very wisely. Right above [the administrative area] is the middle school area. They will change classes. Every subject has a different teacher for sixth, seventh and eighth grades, and it’s all in this wing.

Our kindergarten through
second-grade classrooms are [down the hall] on the bottom floor, and above them are our [grades] three through five classrooms. So you come [to the school] as a student in kindergarten, and you [go to the bottom floor] for your K through two grades, and then you kind of graduate upstairs to three through five, and then you graduate across the building to six through eight.

Did most of the staff from the old school transfer to the new one?

Yes. We have a very stable, experienced staff that really cares about kids. Every classroom teacher at Nokesville Elementary came to the Nokesville School. We needed to add middle school teachers, and we had to add some more elementary teachers because of the increase in our numbers from the boundary change.

There’s a transfer process in Prince William County where teachers can choose to transfer from school to school, and they designate schools they want to go to. We had over 150 teachers from Prince William County who put in for a transfer to come work with us here at the Nokesville School. So I really feel like we had the best of what Prince William County has to offer, for making teacher selection.

What do you look for in hiring teach ers?

Creative, self-driven, motivated teachers who are always looking to continue their professional development skills, who can work well as a team, who are dedicated to continuous improvement — people who I think will do a great job working with our students and our community to make it an enriching environment for all our students.

What is your guiding philosophy of education?

An effective school really needs to have a number of essential ingredients, and we are very fortunate to have those at Nokesville. It’s a mixture of dedicated, innovative teachers and really having a supportive community that will support and enhance the school mission. As a school, we need to be innovative and ensure that we are instilling in students the skills they need to be successful.

Barnes is a freelance writer.