When Elizabeth Dotur was principal of Guilford Elementary School in the 1980s the Sterling school was smaller in size and in student population.
"The school has expanded greatly," she said. "We didn’t have this multipurpose room back then, just one multipurpose room down the hall. And before that was built, our students had recess outside or in the cafeteria."
Guilford Elementary School's students and faculty members from the past and present celebrated the Sterling school’s 40th anniversary in the multipurpose room Thursday, May 31. Current Guilford students sang songs to the school and parent volunteers passed out cake to everyone there.
Debra Cookus, who retired as principal of Guilford Elementary School last year, returned to school to celebrate with familiar students and teachers.
"The best thing about the school is the way all of the students from all different parts of the world come together and support each other," she said.
Cookus, who served as principal for nine years, said one of her favorite memories of the school was seeing a handful of children in line, speaking different languages.
"One child would be speaking English, another child would be speaking Spanish and another child would be translating between them," she said. "And they would walk down the halls with their arms around each other."
Dotur said the school she worked at in the 1980s was not as diverse as the Sterling school now.
"The diversity is wonderful," she said. "That’s a dimension I wish I had when I worked here."
THE HISTORY OF Guilford Elementary School is important to Sterling Park, said School Board member J. Warren Geurin (Sterling).
When the school opened in 1965, there was no middle school, so it housed students in grades one through seven.
In 1971, Sterling Middle School was built, and sixth- and seventh-graders moved there.
Two years later, the school switched to a year-round calendar, where students attended school for 45 days, followed by a 15-day vacation. The year-round calendar only lasted two years.
The school switched back to its regular calendar in 1975. That same year, sixth-graders returned to the school due to overcrowding. The school system built an addition to the school in 1975 to accommodate new kindergarten classes.
Peggy Meade taught sixth grade at the school from 1975 to 1976 due to overcrowding at Sterling Middle School.
"The school’s gotten a lot bigger now," she said. "My classroom was packed then. I think I had over 30 students in my class."
One year later, sixth-graders returned to Sterling Middle School and Guilford added an English as a Second Language (ESL) program to its curriculum.
"The school has been built onto four times, twice while I was here," Dotur said. "Now the school is made up of so many students from all over the world. That means the neighborhood looks likes that, too."
GUILFORD ELEMENTARY School now students from the Trailside, Old Sterling Gable, Newberry, Avalon at Dulles, Fox Lee and Dominion View neighborhoods.
"By the time Guilford Elementary School opened the population of Sterling Park was about 4,500. Today, the total population is 25,000. That’s almost five times the population, 40 years later," Geurin said.