Hunt Valley Elementary School opened on September 3, 1968. Our first principal was Barbara Cooper Fry. Hunt Valley originally had just 22 classrooms and a pupil capacity of 660.
In the late 1960s, the West Springfield area was rapidly transforming from vast tracts of forest into suburban neighborhoods. This led to steady enrollment growth at Hunt Valley, and by the spring of 1969 our building was nearing capacity. In February 1969, the Fairfax County School Board authorized an 11-classroom addition and modernization to Hunt Valley to increase the building’s capacity to 990 students.
The term “modernization” was used by the School Board to describe the addition because it would feature a new and experimental design: open classrooms clustered 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.
What’s in a Name?
During the design and construction process Hunt Valley Elementary School was referred to as Sydenstricker Chapel Elementary School.
Our school was given the name Hunt Valley by the Fairfax County School Board in April 1968. Learn about the origin of the names Hunt Valley and Sydenstricker in this video produced for the Fairfax County Public Schools cable television channel Red Apple 21.
On September 9, 1968, elementary schools throughout Fairfax County opened their doors to the five-year-olds of the community, marking the first time kindergarten was offered in all of the county’s public schools. Burke Elementary School was too small to house all the kindergarteners living within its boundary, so the students were bused to Hunt Valley Elementary School instead. The two schools operated for several years in the late 1960s and early 1970s as a “complex” with Hunt Valley’s principals serving as the lead principal of both schools.
On the Move
Continued growth of the West Springfield area in the early 1970s pushed enrollment at Hunt Valley well above capacity. The 1972-73 school year was particularly challenging with 1,173 students assigned to Hunt Valley. Boundary adjustments occurred several times with the opening of new schools nearby, namely Orange Hunt (1974), White Oaks (1980), and Cherry Run (1983).
My one negative memory of Hunt Valley was teaching on the second floor of the building with no air conditioning. Kris Johnson and I team taught in rooms 205-206. I also taught in the open pod areas. One day for morning exercise, three of our students borrowed their mom’s wigs and pretended to be Diana Ross and the Supremes and sang a medley of their songs. Hunt Valley grew by leaps and bounds and Kris and I found ourselves teaching in what was then the science lab. I remember Willard Scott, the Channel 4 weatherman, coming to talk to the children.
~ Carol Livengood, Hunt Valley Teacher
Maureen Boland, principal of Rolling Valley Elementary School, attended elementary school at Hunt Valley in the late 1970s.
I remember a few teachers. Mrs. Casey was my first grade teacher and she was very popular in the school. She was so nice and caring. I think she stayed in first grade her entire career. Also, the sixth grade teachers were well loved. They team taught in rooms with automatic door partitions – so you either had Martin/Guy or Johnson/Livengood. I had Martin/Guy and I remember they made learning fun with activities. One of my favorite memories was the Greek Olympics in sixth grade. We actually divided into City States and had a whole day of activities which concluded in a chariot race around the track on the lower field with chariots that we made! The other thing I remember is that we had a piece of playground equipment that we called The Tower. It was a death trap that would never be allowed by today’s standards, but we loved the tower.
~ Maureen Boland, Hunt Valley Student, 1974-80
A Glimpse of Hunt Valley in the 1970s
Going the Distance
In the summer of 1984, Ginny Fant, Hunt Valley Elementary School’s reading teacher, introduced a new summer reading program. Fant’s reading marathon program challenged first and second graders to read at least 50 books over the summer and to keep a journal in which they were to record a description of each of the books they had read. In the fall, the eight students who completed the marathon received gold-painted medals, and their picture was placed on a bulletin board for all 900 students in the school to see.
The eight children are proud of their achievement, which school reading instructor Ginny Fant calls remarkable. “You’ve got to remember they only learned to read a few years ago,” says Fant. “It’s the old ‘practice makes perfect,’ just like they would practice the piano,” she said.
~ The Washington Post, October 4, 1984
A Glimpse of Hunt Valley in the 1980s
A New Look
In 1990, Hunt Valley Elementary School received a small addition in the form of two classrooms for the School Age Child Care (SACC) program. The SACC classrooms were built next to the gymnasium. Our school’s first building-wide renewal began construction in fall 1995.
During the renovation, extensive changes were made to the building. A raised stage was installed in the gymnasium to create an assembly hall space for student performances and school functions. A new media center, housing a computer lab, reading room, and television studio, was constructed in what had been an outdoor space between the 1968 and 1969 buildings. The old library on the second floor of the 1968 building was converted into an art classroom. Additionally, the school office was moved from the center of the building to the front of the school.
I remember the 1995-97 renovation very well. The school office was located in the center of the building with no windows at that time. The office was never relocated into a trailer during the renovation. We continued to work while construction was going on. As construction got closer to the office, we would cover our typewriters and computers with big sheets of plastic at the end of the day to keep the dust off. In the mornings, we would remove the plastic sheets, dust off and clean our work areas as much as possible and carry on. It was not a pleasant experience. I’m not sure if we had the option to move the office into a trailer, but we should have done that.
~ Ann Rodriguez, Student Information Assistant
Hunt Valley was rededicated on Wednesday, April 29, 1998. The rededication ceremony included performances by the school chorus and remarks by then principal Mary Barker, former principal Saundra Wolstenholme, and Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Daniel Domenech.
A Glimpse of Hunt Valley in the 1990s
Into the 21st Century
In addition to traditional activities such as Student Council Association, chorus, band, and strings, students at Hunt Valley Elementary School in the early 2000s could participate in Art Club, Homework Club, the Virginia Young Reader’s Summer Reading Club, the Be Smart, Don’t Start Club, and the student-run TV News Show.
A Special Guest
In February 2007, Mamie “Peanut” Johnson, a former professional baseball player, visited Hunt Valley. She spoke with students about her experiences as being one of three women, and the first female pitcher, to play in the Negro Leagues.
Hunt Valley librarian Anne Calabrese said she was thrilled to have the chance for Johnson to speak to the students. “This teaches the students that you don’t have to give up your dreams, you can reach them with hard work,” Calabrese said. “For the girls especially, I think they needed to hear that they can go out and do anything. It’s good for the boys to hear that too.”
~ Connection Newspaper, Feb. 28, 2007
A Tradition of Excellence
Hunt Valley Elementary School has been recognized by numerous local and state-level awards in the first two decades of the 21st century. From 2008 to 2011, and Hunt Valley was the recipient of four Virginia Governor’s Awards for Educational Excellence. In 2012, Hunt Valley was named one of Northern Virginia Magazine’s “Best Elementary Schools.” From 2012 to 2018, our school was the recipient of seven Distinguished Achievement Awards from the Virginia Board of Education. And, in 2018, Hunt Valley was one of the first schools in Virginia to receive a Purple Star Award for meeting the needs of military children and families.
The principals at Hunt Valley have always been great. That’s why we call our school Happy Valley. Everyone that comes to our school becomes happy. ~ Betsy Green, Hunt Valley Teacher