Prince William’s newest elementary school was formally dedicated Wednesday in honor of the late Supervisor John D. Jenkins, a county leader praised for his support of local schools and students during his 36 years in office.
Jenkins, who passed away in February, was the longest-serving supervisor in Prince William County history. More than 60 county schools opened during his tenure, and Jenkins was known for frequenting schools and school events, particularly in his Neabsco District.
But in his remarks during the Aug. 28 ribbon-cutting ceremony, Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart said the decision to name the county’s 99th school for Jenkins was about more than just that.
“We’re not naming this building simply because of his years of service on [the county] board,” said Stewart, R-At Large. “We are naming this building after the great John Jenkins because of his years of love and hard work on behalf of constituents in his district, whom he loved dearly. I know he’s touched so many people in so many great ways, including myself.”
Stewart was among several local dignitaries who spoke during the hour-long ceremony in the Lake Ridge school’s combination gymnasium, cafeteria and auditorium. Also taking the podium were state Sen. Scott Surovell, D-36th; Del. Hala Ayala, D-51st, Supervisor Ruth Anderson, R-Occoquan, School Board Chairman Dr. Babur Lateef (at large), School Board member Lillie Jessie (Occoquan), Superintendent Steven Walts and Jenkins Elementary School Principal Marlene Coleman.
The new school’s story room was dedicated to Jenkins’ widow, Ernestine Jenkins, who was also credited for her many years of service with the Dale City Civic Association, the Bel Air Woman’s Club, the American Legion Post 364 Ladies’ Auxiliary, Project Mend-A-House and Bethel Community Church.
When Ernestine Jenkins took the podium, she talked about her husband’s commitment “to God, country and community” and his “heart of service” for all three. Jenkins served in the U.S. Army for more than 20 years, including two tours in Vietnam, before taking a job at the Pentagon in 1973, a move that brought his family to Prince William County.
Ernestine Jenkins said her husband was “a staunch supporter of providing whatever our schools needed to continue to strive for excellence.”
“It is only fitting that this brand-new school bear his name and carry on his life of commitment to understanding, character and service,” Jenkins said. “We know that Supervisor Jenkins would be proud to see many future leaders get their start right here at the school that bears his name.”
About 40 of Jenkins family members attended the ceremony, including his three sons, Warren, Mark and Gordon, all of whom graduated from Gar-Field High School and now live with their families in neighboring Fauquier County. The Jenkins have 14 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren, and two more on the way, Gordon Jenkins said.
Warren Jenkins, the Jenkins’ oldest son, works for Prince William County schools as a supervisor in the facilities department.
Gordon Jenkins said he only wished his dad could have been there to see the ceremony dedicating the school in his honor.
“He would have loved this. He would have thought this was great, especially because of all the people here,” Gordon Jenkins said. “He probably would have known everybody here by name.”
“We just appreciate the whole thing,” he added. “It’s just an honor and really a fitting tribute for both our mom and dad.”
John D. Jenkins Elementary School opened to students on Monday, Aug. 26. The building is a replicate of the design used for the county’s most recently built elementary schools, including Covington-Harper Elementary in Potomac Shores, Kyle Wilson Elementary in Dale City and Chris Yung Elementary in Bristow.
The building, built to accommodate 710 students, includes three fine arts rooms, for music, strings and art; a science lab; a computer lab; a media center; and a story room. The school is located behind Chinn Library and Chinn Park and includes a soccer field, that will be used by both the school and county soccer leagues.
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