School History

Wakefield Forest Elementary School opened September 6, 1955 under the leadership of our first principal, Glenn S. Wells. Our school originally had just eight classrooms, a library, cafeteria, and an enrollment of 309 students.

The Baby Boom

Wakefield Forest Elementary School opened during the post-World War II period known as the baby boom. In September 1950, there were 16,163 children enrolled in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS). By September 1960 that number would climb to 59,870. During this time period, the United States Congress appropriated financial aid to school districts impacted by the growth of the federal government workforce. The construction of Wakefield Forest was partially funded by a Federal Impact Grant. Our original eight-classroom building was designed by the architectural firm of Walton & Associates, and was built in 1954-55 by the Whitener & Skillman Construction Company for $261,987. However, before the paint was even dry, plans were already underway for a four-classroom addition (the south wing). In November 1955, the contract for the construction of the addition was awarded to the L. R. Broyhill Construction Company in the amount of $74,469. In March 1956, architect John M. Walton was assigned to create plans for yet another addition, of eight-classrooms, to Wakefield Forest. The second addition, the two-story east wing, was built in 1957 by the Lindon Construction Company for $130,883.

Black and white aerial photograph of Wakefield Forest Elementary School taken from the north. You can see old homes built near the school that have since been torn down. The building is shaped like the letter L. It is mostly one-story, but the far left portion of the building is two-stories tall. The main entrance to the building appears to face Virginia Avenue, not Iva Lane as it does today.
Wakefield Forest Elementary School, Circa 1960s

The First Teachers

When students arrived for the first day of school in September 1955, they were met by eight enthusiastic teachers: Paul Wheeler, Sally Burton, Katherine McGrath, Myra Feldstein, Mary Allen, Mabel DeBoskey, Perda Hobbs, and Dorothy Luebke. Martha Reely, our first librarian, was assigned to two schools that year, Wakefield Forest and Westmore elementary schools. The teachers’ annual salaries ranged from $3,400 to $5,300!

Black and white photograph of the front of Wakefield Forest Elementary School taken in 1965. The building looks relatively new and small trees have been planted all along the front. Two early 1960s era cars are parked in front of the building.
Wakefield Forest Elementary School, 1965

Separate Classes

Wakefield Forest Elementary School was the first school in Fairfax County to have separate classes for boys and girls. Principal Glenn Wells felt that boys and girls learned differently and that boys would progress faster if they did not have to compete with girls academically. In September 1960, an all-boys fourth grade was organized. The following year there were two all-boys classes, one in the fifth grade and the other in the sixth grade. By the 1962-63 school year, there were nine separate classes in the first, third, and fifth grades for boys and girls. In 1963, FCPS Superintendent Earl C. Funderburk went on record with the Washington Post stating he was not in favor of expanding the program county-wide, however, he added: “A group of 31 boys, many of them repeating their work and refusing traditional remedial help, made dramatic improvement in a segregated class two years ago. These boys went into mixed groups the following year with tremendous confidence and they are all holding their own in the groups to which they are presently assigned.” The practice of separating classes by gender ceased at the close of the 1973-74 school year.

Two color class photographs, one above the other, from the 1971 to 1972 school year. The picture on top is an all-girls class. The picture on the bottom is an all-boys class. There are about 30 children in each class.
Wakefield Forest Class Photographs, 1971-1972

Integration

When Wakefield Forest opened, public schools in Virginia were segregated by race. Wakefield Forest was built to serve the rapidly expanding white suburban communities near Annandale. At that time, the few African-American children living in our area were bused to James Lee Elementary School near Falls Church, or Eleven Oaks Elementary School in the City of Fairfax. In the early 1960s, FCPS began a slow process of desegregation. African-American families who were interested in having their children attend a school nearer their home had to apply for pupil placement in previously all-white school buildings. This class photograph, from our 1964-65 yearbook, shows the first African-American child admitted to Wakefield Forest Elementary School. It wasn’t until September 1965, that all Fairfax County public schools racially integrated, marking the beginning of the racially and culturally diverse school system we know today.

Black and white class photograph of Mrs. Kamm's first grade class during the 1964 to 1965 school year. It is an all-boys class and 29 boys are pictured. Only one child in the entire school is African-American and he is pictured here in the bottom left corner. His name is unknown at this time.
Wakefield Forest Class Photograph, Grade 1, 1964-65.

Changes

In 1969, construction began on an addition of four more classrooms, a gymnasium, and music rooms. In December 1980, the Washington Star newspaper reported that “Wakefield Forest is a low-slung, mostly single-story, brick structure with glass tiles above its opening windows. Built in 1955, the school was renovated in 1969, when air conditioning was added to parts of the building. 13 of 24 classrooms currently have air conditioning.” It wasn’t until the early 1990s, with the completion of our school’s fourth addition, that the entire building had air conditioning.

Composite image of five Wakefield Forest yearbook covers side by side from the 1964 to 1965, 1974 to 1975, 1984 to 1985, 1989 to 1990, and 1994 to 1995 school years. Each cover is very different, and is shown from oldest on the left to newest on the right. The first cover is blue and tan with an illustration of books stacked on top of one another. The second cover is red and features an abstract illustration above the word Classbook. The third cover shows a photograph of the main entrance of Wakefield Forest Elementary School. The fourth cover shows an illustration of a wolf cub howling. The last cover shows an illustration of a wolf, drawn in profile, with the word memories repeated multiple times in light text.
Wakefield Forest Yearbook Covers (1964-65, 1974-75, 1984-85, 1989-90, and 1994-95).

Student enrollment at Wakefield Forest reached a peak of 900 students in 1961, and gradually declined throughout the 1970s. In 1983, the Fairfax County School Board voted to close nearby Chapel Square Elementary School (now the Sprague Technology Center) and merge its student body with Wakefield Forest. The merger boosted Wakefield Forest’s enrollment from 340 students to 610. Today, Wakefield Forest’s enrollment is approximately 620 students.     

Color photograph from a 35 millimeter slide showing the main entrance to Wakefield Forest Elementary School. The picture was taken sometime during the late 1970s or early 1980s. It is springtime and the dogwood tree in front of the school is in bloom.
Wakefield Forest Elementary School, c.1980

Our Principals

Buffaloes and Turnpikes

Did you know that before the arrival of European settlers, the Annandale area was home to more buffaloes than people? In the early 1600s, Captain John Smith and explorers from the Jamestown Settlement sighted buffalo in Northern Virginia. Historians believe these buffalo were a variant of the bison found in the American West. The buffalo were heavily hunted by American Indians and settlers, and the last recorded buffalo sighting in Virginia was in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the mid-1730s.

Photograph of an American bison standing in a field of grass and weeds. It is a very large animal with dark brown fur, a black mane, and short grey horns.
Courtesy of the United States Department of Agriculture

The buffalo in Northern Virginia migrated from east to west on a route called “Buffalo Trace West” (a street near Wakefield Forest Elementary School is named Buffalo Trace). The trail was turned into a “plank road” by settlers, who put down boards and logs to keep their wagon wheels from becoming mired in mud and clay. Around 1785, stones and crushed rock were added to the roadbed, and finally, in 1802, the Little River Turnpike Company was chartered to complete a 20-foot-wide turnpike (toll road) along part of this roadbed from Alexandria to the Little River in Loudoun County. Little River Turnpike operated as a toll road for much of the 19th century, and became a public road in 1896. 

Color map of Fairfax County drawn in 1878 by Griffith Morgan Hopkins, provided courtesy of the Library of Congress. The approximate location of Wakefield Forest Elementary School is shown by a red circle. The map shows a portion of Little River Turnpike between modern day Guinea Road and the village of Annandale. The names of several landowners and the locations of their homes are pictured on the map.
Approximate location of Wakefield Forest Elementary School, 1878 Map of Fairfax County, Courtesy of the Library of Congress

What’s in a Name?

Wakefield Forest Elementary School was built on a 500 acre tract of land once owned by Oliver Besley. In 1887, Besley built a saw mill on Turkey Run, a tributary stream of Accotink Creek, in the vicinity of Holborn Avenue. Wakefield Chapel, the historic church on Toll House Road, was built between 1887 and 1899 on land donated by Besley. Besley provided the lumber to construct the chapel, and the labor was supplied by a carpenter and reverend for whom the chapel and our school are named.