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100 Years of Education at Chesterbrook

Chesterbrook Elementary School celebrates its Centennial.

When Virginia Wren was a student at Chesterbrook Elementary School in the 1940s, it looked a lot different than it does today.

"It was only four rooms," she said. "Now it's just beautiful, but it feels funny to be back."

Wren and six of her siblings traveled from all over Virginia to make it to Chesterbrook's Centennial celebration last Saturday.

"I live in Waynesboro now," said Virginia Wren. "I came all the way out here just for this."

There are eight Wren siblings in total, but one of them could not make Saturday's event as she had to attend her grandson's wedding.

Jim Wren, the oldest of the siblings, drove from Front Royal, Va. to attend the centennial.

"It's different," said Jim Wren of the school. "I don't recognize any part of the old school at all, except for the front part of the building, but it's wonderful to see. I can't even describe how it has changed. When I went to school here it was in the horse and buggy days."

THE SCHOOL has had several centennial commemoration events throughout the school year, including a day where teachers dressed in period clothing and showed students how the school was operated 100 years ago. Saturday's event was the school's culminating centennial celebration, and featured a variety of games for children, the unveiling of a special mural, historical displays and of course food and refreshments for all those in attendance.

Chesterbrook assistant principal Michelle Sansone was also a Chesterbrook student from 1976-82.

"Having been a student here, a teacher here, and now the assistant principal, I can tell you that there certainly have been a lot of physical changes," said Sansone. "But I believe that one thing has stayed the same, and that is the spirit of a strong sense of commitment to our community and our dedication to our children."

Nellie Ohr, chair of the PTA Centennial committee, talked about how Inez Jenkins founded the one-room schoolhouse on what is now Linway Terrace.

"We've come a long way since then, as you can see with this wonderful building," said Ohr.

Chesterbrook principal Robert Fuqua said that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors had congratulated the school on reaching the ripe old age of 100.

"We are one of the few schools that have survived for 100 years," said Fuqua. "There are several that are 50 years old, but not 100… 100 years ago the community came together and said they wanted a school here, and that spirit of love and appreciation is still here."

Jane Strauss, the Dranesville district representative on the Fairfax County School Board, also attended Saturday's celebration. Strauss shared some historical trivia about the school, such as the fact that James Madison rode his horse through it, and that the area was called Lincolnville during the Civil War era.

"Birthdays help to remind us where we came from, so we can also see where we are going," said Strauss. "This has always been an important community and there is a tremendous amount of history here, and the spirit of Chesterbrook lives on stronger every year."

Steven Hunt, an at-large member of the Fairfax County School Board, said that it was great to see a place where "school has been central to the community for so long."

"We're looking for ways to get school back to being the focus of the community," said Hunt.

Ohr and Fuqua unveiled a framed Chesterbrook Centennial mural as part of the celebration. The mural was made up of photographs of students and teachers.

"I think it's symbolic of how many individuals make up the community of Chesterbrook," said Ohr.

STUDENTS OF ALL AGES attended the celebration. Michael Ohr and Samuel Sacks, both 14, will enter McLean High School as freshman in the fall, but both have fond memories of elementary school days.

"I had a lot of good teachers here," said Ohr.

Sacks said he missed the easy days of elementary school.

"It was a lot easier than middle school," he said.

Current students also had nothing but good things to say about their school. Reilly Donovan, 13, started at Chesterbrook in the second grade, and said he thought the centennial celebration was "awesome."

"I really like the teachers here, and I made a lot of nice friends," said Donovan, who will start at Longfellow Middle School in the fall.

Donovan said the thing he will miss most about going to school at Chesterbrook is recess. Second graders Bryce Huber and Gaby Creeser, both 8, also said they were fans of their teachers.

"I really like art class, and lots of the teachers here are really nice," said Huber.

Creeser was in full agreement.

"Nobody yells at you here," said Creeser. "They let you handle problems on your own.”