Schools - First Priority
by Carl Sell

It didn’t take long for the new residents of Rose Hill to start beating the drum for an elementary school. In fact, the School Board and the Board of Supervisors responded by placing a bond issue on the November 1955 ballot. It passed and the school opened in September of 1957. The cost was $502,016 for a 20-classroom structure. By contrast, the most recent expansion of 10 classrooms that opened in 2001 cost $2,256,500!

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Rose Hill Elementary School, 2002

From December of 1954 until Rose Hill Elementary opened, students attended nearby Virginia Hills Elementary (1955-56) and Bush Hill Elementary (1956-57). In 1958, Rose Hill had more than 500 students, about half from Rose Hill and the rest from the communities of Ridgeview Estates, Wilton Woods, Clermont and Franconia Estates. Clermont and Wilton Woods Elementary later were opened to serve those communities. Wilton Woods since has become an administrative office, as has Virginia Hills with students from that community attending Rose Hill.

In the early days, junior and high students from Rose Hill made the long trip to old Mount Vernon High School located near Engleside on Route #1. In 1954, there were only six high schools in all of Northern Virginia: Mount Vernon, George Washington in Alexandria, Washington-Lee in Arlington, Falls Church, Fairfax and one way out in the country named Herndon. As an undistinguished member of the baseball team at Mount Vernon, the author recalls taking a packed lunch along for the bus ride to Herndon for a game.

Fortunately, Robert E. Lee High School opened in Springfield in 1958, so the bus ride to school was considerably shorter. Fairfax County also switched to an intermediate school program (now called Middle Schools) and Mark Twain was among the first. At the same time voters were approving the bonds for Rose Hill Elementary, another passed in the amount of $955,927 for Twain. It opened with 42 classrooms in 1960.

In 1960, voters approved bonds totaling $2,603,800 for the construction of Edison High School and the new high school opened with 42 classrooms in 1960. And who can forget the sale of light bulbs for the new lights at the football stadium. We all bought enough to last a lifetime. Some of you still probably have the bulbs you bought in the 1960s stored in the closet!

In the late 1960s, the School Board purchased 40 acres on Franconia Road (now the site of Clermont Park), with the idea of building another high school. The idea was to open a new academic high school and turn Edison into a vocational school. The idea flopped in the community and the Park Authority negotiated a long-term lease in the land to help meet the needs for active recreation.

The early residents of Rose Hill realized that good schools were the key to thriving community. The new elementary school opened on September 3, 1957 and just eight days later, the first Parent Teacher Association meeting was held. The first order to business was to raise funds for some much-needed equipment. The Rose Hill Civic Association pitched in to purchase a freezer for the cafeteria. Over then years, the PTA has provided exemplary support for the school, its staff and the community. Who can forget those scrumptious spaghetti dinners! (We understand the recipe for sauce for 500 diners still exists).

And, many veterans of the Rose Hill PTA moved on to help get Twain and Edison up and running. A former administrator at Edison once said that if he need help he always came to Rose Hill "because that’s where the workers are."

Since those early days, Rose Hill Elementary, Twain and Edison have been greatly expanded. Bonds were approved for a 10-clasroom addition to Rose Hill in the amount of $521,720 in 1970, another addition and renovations totaling $3,367,000 in 1990 and the $2,256,500 10-classroon addition in 1997.

Twain went 26 years before bonds totaling $4,524,500 were approved for additions and renovations in 1986. Recently, $2,271,00 was approved for a 10-classroom addition in 1995 and 12 more in the amount of $3,395,748 were approved in 1999 and recently completed.

The Industrial Arts addition was added to Edison in the form of a $547,798 bond approval in 1965. In 1984, the school was renovated; six classrooms and additional support space for the library were added. The school is due for a major renovation/overall with funds to start the process proposed for the ballot in 2002.

Do you recall the uproar when vandals stole the Edison Eagle from the front of the school? It took months, but Detective Billy Lamb of the Fairfax County Police, working mostly on his own time, finally tracked down the perpetrators and recovered the damaged bird in the gravel pits in what is now Kingstowne. The Eagle was restored and returned to its perch.

If you have any information you would like to add to this segment, e-mail Carl Sell at clsell@hotmail.com. Any unusual or funny incidents also will qualify.

In subsequent vignettes, we will at a look at the history of our parks, library and shopping center.

Please let me know if you have any information to contribute to the history of Rose Hill. Carl Sell

The Library

Photo courtesy Jim Sapp

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