James Fenimore Cooper Middle School opened on September 4, 1962. On opening day, the total enrollment in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) was just 72,220 students. Cooper Middle School opened when Fairfax County was in the process of racially desegregating its public schools. Cooper opened as an integrated school, admitting pupils who had formerly been assigned to the all-African-American Luther Jackson High School in Merrifield.
In 1958, the Fairfax County School Board voted to reorganize the public school system and establish the county’s first intermediate schools. Traditionally, Fairfax County students in grades 1-7 attended elementary schools, and students in grades 8-12 attended high schools. Intermediate schools were created to ease the transition from elementary school to high school, and provide students with a specialized program of study.
The intermediate schools will include music, art, and shop facilities but will not be “little high schools.” For instance, there won’t be any inter-school sports in these schools. They were set up because of the physical, emotional and psychological differences of the 7th and 8th grade students and everything in the schools is geared to that age group.
~ FCPS Assistant Superintendent Robert B. Walker, May 1960
Intermediate schools were introduced county-wide in September 1960. In the early 1990s, due to a programmatic shift, all intermediate schools in Fairfax County were renamed middle schools.
What’s in a Name?
Although it was the twelfth intermediate school established by FCPS, School Board records indicate Cooper was actually one of the first to receive its name. On December 16, 1959, the School Board officially named Intermediate #2 the James Fenimore Cooper School. During design and construction, Cooper was also referred to as Balls Hill Intermediate School. What do our namesake, James Fenimore Cooper, and the National Baseball Hall of Fame have in common? Find out in this video produced for the FCPS cable television channel Red Apple 21.
Even though it had been named in 1959, construction of Cooper Intermediate School didn’t get underway until December 1961, when the School Board awarded the project contract for the school to the M. L. Whitlow Construction Company. Cooper was built at a cost of $992,862, and had just 27 classrooms. The original building was designed by the architecture firm of Pickett, Siess and Hook of Falls Church, Virginia. Cooper’s unique design was later reused during the construction of Stephen Foster Intermediate School (now Whitman Middle School).
The first renovation/modernization of Cooper Middle School began construction in the summer of 1988. Funded by the 1986 school bond issue, the renewal was completed at a cost of $4.1 million. The current modernization project is scheduled for completion in August 2022. Explore the evolution of Cooper Middle School in this series of aerial photographs.
- Did you know that Cooper Middle School students published a book in 1991? The book, entitled “Chords of Memory: voices from the Depression and World War Two,” was created by seventh graders as part of a study of local historical events. The book is a compilation of personal narratives gleaned from interviews with local residents. Copies of the “Chords of Memory” are available at the Virginia Room, Fairfax County Public Library and at the University of Virginia Library in Charlottesville.
- Did you know that the library at Cooper Middle School was named in honor of Herman B. Lloyd? Mr. Lloyd was the principal chosen to pilot the intermediate school program in Fairfax County, at the Parklawn School, in 1959-60. He went on to serve as the principal of Glasgow Middle School until 1970, and was Cooper Middle School’s principal from 1970 until his retirement in December 1983.
- Did you know that the gymnasium at Cooper Middle School was named in honor of Cecil Hoosier? Cecil Hoosier joined FCPS as a field custodian in 1964, and became a building supervisor in 1965. He was hired as the building supervisor of Cooper Middle School in 1969, and served in that capacity for 22 years until his retirement in 1991. Mr. Hoosier was deeply committed to Cooper Middle School’s students, staff, and community, and was twice-honored with the FCPS Building Supervisor of the Year award in 1984 and 1989.
- Did you know that the cafeteria at Cooper Middle School was named in honor of Shirley Miller? Ms. Miller began her career with Fairfax County Public Schools in 1955, at Willston Elementary School in Seven Corners. She served on the custodial staffs of five more schools before coming to Cooper Middle School. Ms. Miller was the building supervisor at Cooper until she passed away in January 2014. She had high expectations for the care and upkeep of Cooper Middle School, and always supported the needs of students, staff, and parents with an incredible level of energy and enthusiasm.
- Cooper Middle School’s fifth principal, Bernard F. Gross, was a finalist for the FCPS Principal of the Year award in 1992 and 1994.
|1962 - 1970||William D. McKinney|
|1970 - 1983||Herman B. Lloyd|
|1983 - 1988||A. Dwayne Harkleroad|
|1988 - 1990||Susan M. deCorpo|
|1990 - 2001||Bernard F. Gross|
|2001 - 2020||Arlene Randall|
|2020 - Present||Lisa Barrow|