In September 1956, students in North Springfield had a wealth of opportunity in front of them — three new schools opening in one school year.
Crestwood Elementary, on Hanover Avenue, will commemorate its 50th anniversary with ceremonies on Thursday, Oct. 12, but teachers and administrators are already buzzing with excitement and eager to learn about their school's past.
"We were one of the first schools to open in this area," said Crestwood principal Judy Thompson.
Sifting through a pile of newspapers clippings, old plastic-covered yearbooks and fact sheets, clinic room aid Judy Farabaugh pulled out a detailed list of the costs associated with building Crestwood.
In 1956, when the school was opened as a 16-classroom, two-story facility, the construction cost about $493,616. An addition of six classrooms and some other modifications to accommodate the 400 students cost another $104,521, bringing the total cost of the school to $598,137.
By comparison, Eagle View Elementary, which opened in Fairfax this September, cost about $12.3 million to build, according to Kevin Sneed, Fairfax County Public Schools Director of Design and Construction in the Office of Facilities and Transportation.
The theme of the celebration will be "Remember the Past, Celebrate the Present, Prepare for the Future," said music teacher Debra Lindsay, who has been working with another teacher, Jeff Copp, on writing a new school song for the anniversary.
"There will be a group of 42 fifth and sixth grade students performing at the two assemblies, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., on the 12th," Lindsay said.
Vicki Hatzigeorgalis-Cline, president of the Crestwood PTA, said the group is donating student-designed T-shirts featuring the school's owl mascot, which will be given to students as a surprise present during the ceremony.
DURING THE EVENING celebration, students will act as guides for parents and families that visit the school, Thompson said.
In the meantime, to prepare for the celebration, Farabaugh said she's been trying to contact former principals and teachers at the school, looking for their memories and photographs to share with the current community.
"Some of the teachers are bringing in dolls and plates they had growing up in the 50s," Farabaugh said.
"A lot of students who go here now had parents and or aunts and uncles that went to Crestwood," Lindsay said. "This really has always been a community school."
Much like Lynbrook and North Springfield Elementaries, which are also commemorating 50 years in the 2006-07 school year, Crestwood was built to accommodate the growing population of the North Springfield area in the mid-1950s, mostly baby boom families and Washington-area professionals.
Back then, Farabaugh said, students had to dress a little more formally to attend school.
"Girls had to wear socks, either anklets or knee socks, and dresses or skirts," she said. "Boys had to wear button-down shirts, tucked in. They were not allowed to wear jeans or T-shirts."
When Crestwood opened, most teachers were women who "wanted the job for June, July and August," Thompson said, referring to the built-in summer vacation teachers enjoy. Now, both men and women choose to be teachers because of their love of education and children, she said.
"I'm so impressed with the professionalism of these young teachers," Thompson said.
TEACHERS WERE ALSO responsible for nearly everything their students had to learn, from science and art to language and physical education, Farabaugh said.
Springfield, at that time, was a very rural community, where the Good Humor man visited every neighborhood daily during the summer, the milkman made a delivery every morning and the mail was delivered twice every day, she said.
"When we moved here from Alexandria in 1965, you had to go through Springfield to get to Ravensworth from West Springfield because the bridge on Rolling Road had bad potholes in the winter," Farabaugh remembered.
It was also the time of "Dick and Jane" readers, where children learned to read by following the simple storyline of two children, their dog Spot and their parents.
"We don't allow kids to read those books anymore because they were biased when it comes to gender roles," Thompson said.
The community surrounding Crestwood has become multicultural, with strong Vietnamese, Hispanic and Asian populations, Farabaugh said.
To reflect that diversity, Hatzigeorgalis-Cline has chosen to put up welcoming messages on the PTA message board in a variety of languages.
"We want people to know it's O.K. to be different, we welcome all cultures," said Hatzigeorgalis-Cline, herself a native of Greece.
Through the past 50 years, one thing has remained.
Eleanor Williams spent her first three years at Crestwood as a volunteer in the cafeteria, helping children find their place at tables. Eventually, she was asked to be the school's first cafeteria hostess, a position she still fills today.
"I love the kids," said Williams, who has written a history of Crestwood and Springfield which is posted on the school's Web site, www.fcps.edu/CrestwoodES.
She said the students haven't changed much over the past 50 years, other than the occasional loud outburst she didn't see in the school's early days.
"I think the school is better now than when we first started," Williams said. "I think it's just wonderful, and I'm glad they're still keeping me."