Herndon Elementary School opened on September 5, 1961. However, the roots of our school pre-date the founding of Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS). We invite you to explore some facets of our unique and fascinating history.
The first public school building in the Town of Herndon was constructed in 1868 on Center Street. The building was originally a one-room frame structure and was later expanded to three rooms. This school opened two-years before the founding of FCPS, and was absorbed into the public school system’s Dranesville School District in 1875.
The first known teacher of the Herndon School was David Sanford L. Johnson, a native New Yorker who was born in the late 1830s. Surviving records indicate that he was the teacher during the period of 1871-72. Other known teachers of this school during the late 19th and early 20th centuries are Edgar E. Kidwell, Sadie C. Detwiler, Harvey Earlton Hanes, and Edwin Barbour Hutchison, for whom Hutchison Elementary School is named.
In 1911, a new school building was constructed in the Town of Herndon on Locust Street on the present site of Herndon Middle School. It was called Herndon High School. It had eight classrooms and an assembly hall, and housed students from grades 1-11.
Herndon High School was destroyed by fire in January 1927, and was quickly replaced. The new school had 12 classrooms and an auditorium, and was built at a cost of $45,000. This school also housed students in the elementary grades until the current Herndon Elementary School was constructed in 1961.
A New School
By the late 1950s, continued population growth in the Herndon community necessitated the construction of a new elementary school. In 1960, the Fairfax County School Board purchased ten acres of land along Dranesville Road in the Town of Herndon for an elementary school site at a cost of $2,750 per acre. The architecture firm of Pickett & Siess was hired to design a 20-classroom building and, in February 1961, the School Board awarded the contract for its construction to M. L. Whitlow, Inc. The school was completed in seven months at a cost of $440,000.
The brand new, 600-pupil capacity Herndon Elementary School opened its doors to students for the first time at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, September 5, 1961. During the first year, students could purchase a school lunch for 25 cents and milk cost 3 cents. The total student population of FCPS at that time was 65,200. Within ten years, that number would increase to 135,900.
The original building layout of Herndon Elementary School was designed in, what later architects called, “egg crate” fashion. There were ten classrooms on each floor separated by a long hallway. The library was located on the second floor. The original building did not have a gymnasium, music classroom, art classroom, or air conditioning.
Do you know for whom the Town of Herndon is named? Find out in this video produced in this video produced for the Fairfax County Public Schools cable television channel Red Apple 21.
Desegregation and Diversity
When Herndon Elementary School opened in 1961, Fairfax County Public Schools was in in the process of racially desegregating its public schools. Beginning in 1870, FCPS was required by Virginia law to operate separate schools for white and African-American children. After the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of Brown v. Board of Education and the subsequent period of Massive Resistance in Virginia, FCPS began a slow process of desegregating its public schools, culminating at the end of the 1965-66 school year.
In the fall of 1963, under legal pressure from the NAACP to desegregate schools more rapidly, the School Board admitted three African-American children to Herndon Elementary School. The closure of Oak Grove Elementary School the following June led to the enrollment of 21 more African-American children at Herndon in the fall of 1964. These numbers seem small by today’s standards, but Fairfax County’s population was far less ethnically and racially diverse in the 1960s. The diversity we cherish today was a product of several waves of immigration that largely began with the arrival of refugees from war-torn Vietnam in the 1970s.
During the 1968-69 school year, kindergarten classes were offered for the first time in all Fairfax County elementary schools. More than 8,100 children enrolled in the kindergarten program in the fall of 1968. The introduction of kindergarten occurred at a time when FCPS was still experiencing record enrollment growth. This continued growth had led to overcrowding at Herndon Elementary School by 1967, leaving no available classroom space for incoming kindergarteners. To free up space, the School Board directed that beginning in the fall of 1968, Herndon Elementary School’s 6th grade classes would be housed temporarily at Herndon Intermediate School.
Additions and Renovations
In the summer of 1968, Herndon Elementary School was placed on a priority list of schools to be enlarged and modernized by September 1969. The “modernization” of the school would include a new and experimental design: open classrooms grouped around resource area pods. Other modern features of the addition included classrooms for music and science, and a gymnasium. These learning spaces were not constructed in Fairfax County elementary schools prior to the late 1960s.
Construction of the first addition to Herndon Elementary School got underway in December 1968, and was completed in time for the opening of school the following September.
The 1968-69 addition to Herndon increased the capacity of the building to 900 pupils, but even with the additional space Herndon Elementary School continued to face overcrowding well into the 1970s and 1980s. The 1978-79 school year was particularly challenging because Herndon’s enrollment surged from 980 the previous year to 1,067. The growing community of Reston and new housing developments constructed in and around the Town of Herndon led to the opening of several new schools to relieve overcrowding at Herndon, namely Hutchison (1975), Clearview (1979), and Dranesville (1988).
In an effort to increase the building capacity to 1,000 students, a six-classroom addition to Herndon Elementary School was constructed in 1987-88. Built at a cost of $742,177, the addition was funded by the 1986 School Bond Referendum. A large courtyard between the original wing of the building and the first addition was partially enclosed at this time to create a new library, and the old library space was divided into three classrooms. A sprinkler system was also added to the school at this time. A $2.8 million building-wide renewal, funded by the 1988 School Bond Referendum, began construction in the spring of 1990. During the renewal, an addition was constructed to the back of the building next to the gymnasium. The addition included the stage area, which was also used as a multi-purpose room, and two classrooms for the School Age Child Care (SACC) program. Other changes to the building included: the breezeway between the kindergarten pod and the gymnasium was enclosed, elevators were added to the building, and the office area was reconfigured.
By the turn of the century, Herndon Elementary School again faced significant overcrowding. A report to the School Board in January 2001, indicated that Herndon had 15 classroom trailers. The strain on classroom space eased with the opening of McNair Elementary School in September 2001.
Becoming Immersed in Another Language
Did you know that Herndon Elementary School was one of the pilot sites for the FCPS Partial-Immersion Foreign Language program? Beginning in the 1989-90 school year, Herndon was the first elementary school in Fairfax County to offer French Partial-Immersion. In the 20-teens, due to changing demographics, Herndon switched to the Two-Way Spanish Immersion program in use today.
The John Kalen Memorial Library
In June 1992, the School Board passed a resolution naming the library at Herndon Elementary School in honor of John Kalen. Mr. Kalen, a beloved teacher at Herndon from 1980 to 1991, had recently passed away, and the Herndon community wanted to create a lasting memorial to him.
Whereas, John Kalen was always available to stop, listen, and offer advice and guidance to Herndon Elementary School children, and was willing to take on any task, no matter how large or how small; and Whereas, he constantly encouraged our students, his teacher counterparts, and our parents to explore, challenge, and expand their minds and to strive to do better; and Whereas, his contributions to the Herndon Elementary community will greatly benefit not only our children but children to follow; and Whereas, his infectious love of life and affection for his students will live in so many memories forever, and his love and caring, which was shown to all, will be so deeply missed; Now, Therefore, Be It Resolved that the Herndon Elementary School library be dedicated to the loving memory of John Kalen.
~ School Board Resolution Excerpt, June 25, 1992
School on Saturday?
During the 1992-93 school year, staff at Herndon Elementary School created the Extra Class Learning (EXCEL) program to provide students with additional academic support. Held on Saturday mornings from November through March, the program paired elementary students with teenage buddies from Herndon High School. The program started with just 25 students and within ten years grew to 72 elementary students and 74 high school students. Take a look at the Saturday EXCEL School in action in this video produced for the Fairfax County Public Schools news program SchoolScene in 2007.
|1961 – 1980:||George Dudley Page|
|1980 – 1982:||Helen M. Johnston|
|1982 – 1990:||Wayne S. Chester|
|1990 – 1999:||Michele J. Freeman|
|1999:||Lorraine Walker (Acting)|
|1999 – 2001:||Jane Y. (Goins, Crim) Wilson|
|2001 – 2010:||Carolyn Gannaway|
|2010 – 2016:||Ann Gwynn|
|2016 – 2020:||Teresa Fennessy|
|2021:||Marti Jo Jackson (Acting)|
For additional information, read our School History Sources.