A writers club, after school foreign language courses, an emphasis on technology, daily character lessons and an outdoor courtyard built by students have all given Wakefield Forest Elementary School reason to celebrate more than just its 50th anniversary.
Rep. Tom Davis (D-11) remembers attending a private school just up the street from Wakefield Forest Elementary in 1955, and he said the school’s ability to keep up with development has been incredible.
“This area was country back when Wakefield Elementary was started,” said Davis. “Fifty years goes very, very quickly.”
The school is celebrating its golden anniversary, a milestone Principal Sheri D’Amato said helps sum up the school’s accomplishments. Fairfax County School Board officials, Davis, and former faculty and students were on hand Monday, June 12, to show their support for a school that former principal Kim Brown said has thrived on contributions from so many people.
“These are the connections that will last a lifetime,” said Brown. “It’s the human connection.”
LOCATED ON VIA LANE south of Little River Turnpike, the school celebrated the anniversary Thursday, June 8, with a reception for parents and students. Alumni came to the school Friday, June 9, for a barbecue and a tour. D’Amato said the night was a huge success, and the alumni were all thrilled to be there. Festivities continued into the week of June 12, where each day was designated for each decade the school has been through. Students were encouraged to dress in decade-specific wear to help celebrate those who paved the way for them. The school announced the items for its time capsule at the June 12 rededication ceremony, along with hearing words from people who have either directly or indirectly been involved with the school since its beginning.
“For 50 years, Wakefield Elementary has been the cornerstone of our community,” said D’Amato.
Students at the school helped come up with various items to include in the time capsule, which will be set to open in another 50 years at the school’s 100th anniversary. Children picked things to represent the events, people and items special to them throughout the school year. They included typical time capsule items like a newspaper and a copy of the yearbook, but they also added some different items to spice things up. The included a D.C. Nationals logo hand-held fan, powered by AAA batteries, a Sports Illustrated cover about George Mason University making it to the 2006 Final Four, Wikipedia pages on Hurricane Katrina, and a framed picture of two former students with actor Will Smith, the celebrity Wakefield students most wanted to meet in 2005-06.
“Fifty years from now, when the time capsule will be opened, I wonder how much things will have changed,” said Tori Fredericks, president of the SCA.
SIXTH GRADE chorus singers performed two songs at the ceremony, and afterwards they all agreed they would likely be at the school’s 100th anniversary. Danielle Turner said she wanted to come back because it has been her school since kindergarten and she really likes it. Lee Crowley said he likes all of his teachers, and hopes to come back in 50 years. Shannon Smith said the great memories she has at the school would bring her back for the 100th anniversary.
School Board member Tessie Wilson (Braddock) said the school continues to move forward with its curriculum, faculty and innovative programs. One aspect of the school’s innovations is the outdoor courtyard. Students helped plant the garden and have helped turn the space into a useful place.
“It’s a whole learning environment,” said D’Amato. “It’s an outdoor classroom for us.”
At the end of the ceremony, State Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis (R-34) presented D’Amato with a House Joint Resolution commending the school on the occasion.
“You can see what a positive effect this school has had on the community,” said Dr. Jack Dale, superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools. “It’s a perfect example of a community school.”