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Belle View — Looking Forward, Looking Back

Fifty-two years ago this June, Fairfax County voters approved a bond issue which would lead to the opening of Belle View Elementary School a little more than two years later. Since the doors first opened in November of 1952, the world, our nation, and community have changed greatly. Enormous population growth, along with changes in society and technology has meant that Belle View little resembles the school that opened a couple of weeks after Dwight Eisenhower was elected president.

In 1950, Fairfax County was transitioning from a rural county to a county that was primarily suburban. It had a population of around 200,000 and the area around Belle View was just beginning to see development. Neighborhoods like Bucknell Manor were being built. By 1970, the county had a population of almost 1 million, the Belle View shopping center had been built, and the community was no longer an outlying suburb.

Throughout the 1980s, the Belle View area matured and the Martha Washington Library and Mount Vernon Recreation Center were established. While the county continued to grow, the number of school age children in our area leveled off. Today, the school age population around Belle View is again growing as a diverse community rediscovers the value of "close-in" suburbs.

WHEN BELLE VIEW opened in 1952, Fairfax County shared many characteristics of the pre-civil rights era south. Schools were segregated, and there was little ethnic diversity. Kindergarten was not available. As with the population, this would change in the ensuing years. Belle View would become integrated in 1966.

In 1968, a kindergarten program was established. Beginning in the 1980's, immigration to the Washington area would lead to a greater ethnic diversity among Belle View Students. By the late 1990's and continuing today, Belle View celebrates a rich and diverse student population. This is enhanced with the introduction of full-day kindergarten and an English as Second Language program, so that students in the Belle View community can attend their community school.

TECHNOLOGY HAS ALSO changed greatly since the early 1950's. When Belle View opened, less than half of American households had television. By the mid-1960's, television came to Belle View in the form of distance teaching of French language classes.

Today, Belle View produces its own in-house television program every morning. Computers, in 1952, belonged in large rooms filled with thousands of vacuum tubes. By the early 1970's, Fairfax County would use computers to automate data processing. Today, computers, connected to the Internet can be found in every classroom. It is possible for parents to communicate with their child's teacher electronically via e-mail. Even the telephone exchange, which had lasted for almost 50 years, was recently upgraded. The new system provides a direct extension and voice mail to each teacher.

Finally, the school itself has changed. This included the addition of several classrooms in 1971, a major remodeling in 1988, and a new playground in 2000. The school colors have gone from green and white to blue and white, and the nickname from Beagles to Bobcats.

There have been a number of changes over the past 50 years. A quick look at class composite photographs with their changing fashions would seem to be another example of this change. Take a closer look, beyond the dress and hairstyles. You will see throughout time, groups of eager students and dedicated staff. The people in the photographs are Belle View's past. The people in the classrooms today are Belle View's future.