School History: Our Building

Beech Tree Elementary School opened on September 3, 1968. Our school was designed by the architecture firm of Pickett, Siess, and Hook of Falls Church, Virginia, and was built by W. Bradley Tyree, Inc., at a cost of $597,463. 1968 was an exciting year for Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS). It was the first year that kindergarten was adopted in all schools, and nine new schools opened.

Black and white photograph of the front exterior of Beech Tree Elementary School taken in the late 1960s shortly after the school opened. Pictured are the original cafeteria wing and two story classroom wing. A 1960s era station wagon is parked in front of the school.
This is the earliest known photograph of Beech Tree Elementary School. It is believed the picture was taken in the late 1960s, shortly after our school opened.

Renovations and Additions

Like most Fairfax County elementary schools constructed in the 1960s, Beech Tree was built without a gymnasium, music room, and air conditioning. Prior to 1984, physical education was taught in classrooms on the first floor, and music was taught in a classroom located on the second floor at the rear of the building. The original library was located upstairs at the front of our building above the main office.

Color photograph of the front exterior of Beech Tree Elementary School. The picture comes from a 33 millimeter slide and is believed to have been taken around 1980. A green Chevy car is parked in front of the building.
Beech Tree Elementary School, Circa 1980

In January 1984, construction began on Beech Tree’s first renewal and addition. Our gymnasium and a music classroom were constructed at this time. The new building wing was designed by the architecture firm of Arthur Cotton Moore Associates, and was built by H. Manny Holtz, Inc., at a cost of $906,210.

Black and white photograph from our 1986 to 1987 yearbook showing teacher Richard Simonds working with students. A volleyball net has been strung across the gymnasium and two groups of students on either side of the net are tossing balls back and forth across the net to each other.
This photograph, taken in 1987, shows P.E. teacher Richard Simonds working with his students. Mr. Simonds taught at Beech Tree for ten years. In addition to physical education, he is fondly remembered for serving as the safety patrol sponsor, and for collaborating with music staff and classroom teachers to present musicals and plays.

Beech Tree was one of 14 elementary schools to receive funding from the 1988 school bond referendum for the installation of air conditioning throughout our building. This amenity was added in 1990, much to the delight of students and teachers.

Color aerial photograph of Beech Tree Elementary School. The building is shaped like the letter T. The camera is positioned southwest of the school with the gymnasium and music classroom addition in the foreground, the original two-story classroom wing in the center, and the cafeteria at the top. A modular classroom building can be seen northeast of the main building.
Beech Tree Elementary School, April 28, 2010. This photograph was taken just prior to the start of our second renovation. The large building at the top of the photograph is an eight-classroom modular building that was constructed in 2004 at a cost of $2.6 million.

Our second renovation began construction during the summer of 2010 and was completed in February 2012. This extensive $8.3 million school-wide renewal transformed our building into the beautiful, state-of-the-art facility we cherish today.

Color aerial photographs of Beech Tree Elementary School taken during renovation. Two views are shown, one taken from the northwest, and a smaller inset picture taken from the east. The grounds behind the school have been cleared and cinderblock walls are being erected. The sidewalk in front of the school has been torn up and construction equipment and supplies are visible around the building.
Beech Tree Elementary School, June 29, 2010, during the early stages of renovation. R. J. Crowley, Inc. was awarded the construction contract in April 2010, and the firm completed their work in February 2012.

During the renovation, new classrooms were added, the library was relocated, and a new main entrance was constructed.

Color aerial photograph of Beech Tree Elementary School taken after the renovation was complete. All of the open spaces and courtyards between the wings of the building were enclosed to create classroom spaces. A parking lot has been added where the modular building once stood.
Beech Tree Elementary School, March 30, 2012. During the renovation, when new classrooms became available, the modular building was vacated. It was moved during the summer of 2011 to Groveton Elementary School.

Reshaping Boundaries

Since its opening, Beech Tree’s attendance area has been adjusted several times, most notably in 1974, 1980, and 1991. From the mid-1970s into the early 1980s, student enrollment began a gradual decline resulting in the closure of several schools in the eastern part of Fairfax County. The closures affected neighborhoods that saw the earliest growth post-World War II. The children in these neighborhoods were graduating high school, and there were fewer families in the area with young children.

Color photograph of students on the lawn behind Beech Tree Elementary School. The picture was probably taken during the spring time, during one of the annual Fun Fairs. Based on the clothing and hair styles, the time period appears to be the mid or late 1970s. The students are all wearing yellow shirts. Two teachers are holding up a large white banner imprinted with the words Beech Tree School in black, and with an illustration of a bird in flight in the center. The bird is painted yellow and black. Perhaps this was an early mascot for our school before the beaver.
Beech Tree Elementary Students, Circa mid-1970s.

The closing of Willston Elementary School in 1974 resulted in the area north of Route 50, from Annandale Road to Seven Corners, being reassigned to Beech Tree. 432 children were enrolled at Beech Tree in September 1975, but by the end of the decade our enrollment bottomed out at 295 children.

Black and white photograph of the front exterior of Willston Elementary School. The building is a two-story structure set on top of a hill. The steep terrain and small school site, less than five acres in size, contributed to the school’s closure.
Pictured above is Willston Elementary School in 1954. Learn about the history of Willston Elementary School.

Masonville Elementary School’s closing in 1980 led to Beech Tree receiving children from Masonville Heights, Broyhill Crest, and the surrounding areas. Enrollment rebounded in September 1980 to 426 children and gradually tapered off to 360 children by 1985.

Black and white photograph of the front exterior of Masonville Elementary School. The building is a single-story structure a classroom wing on the right and cafeteria on the left. A 1950s era car is parked in front of the school.
Pictured above is Masonville Elementary School in 1956. After the school closed in 1980, parents gathered to help move supplies and equipment to Beech Tree. Learn more about the history of Masonville Elementary School. Photograph by Les Wengel. Courtesy of the Virginia Room, Fairfax County Public Library.

In 1991, a portion of the Willston Apartments was reassigned to Beech Tree, to relieve serious overcrowding at Sleepy Hollow Elementary School. Enrollment swelled from 499 pupils in 1996, to 544 children in 2000.

Color photograph of Mrs. Sawyer’s morning kindergarten class during the 1988 to 1989 school year. 28 children and two teachers are pictured.
Mrs. Sawyer’s A.M. Kindergarten Class, 1988-89.

Preschool and Cued Speech

The FECEP / Head Start program at Beech Tree Elementary School began during the 2003-04 school year. However, this was not the first time preschool-aged children were enrolled at our school. From the late 1970s through the late 1980s, a Cued Speech program for preschool and elementary-aged children was housed at Beech Tree. Cued Speech is a visual method of communication used with and among deaf or hard-of-hearing people.

Color photograph of teacher Kathy Lovette’s Cued Speech class taken during the 1983 to 1984 school year. Seven children of varying ages are pictured.
Kathy Lovette’s Cued Speech Class, 1983-84.

In 1980, Beech Tree was one of several schools in our area studied for possible closure. Parents lobbied the School Board to remove Beech Tree from the study because our school’s Cued Speech program.

Our hearing-impaired children have made remarkable progress since starting with Cued Speech. A great deal of the credit and success is due in no small part to the hard work and dedication of the teachers, administrators, and normal hearing children. Closing the school would have a severely negative impact… and set back the progress of our children from one to three years.

~Jackie Berry, Cued Speech Association

1986 to 1987 yearbook page showing Kathy Lovette’s Cued Speech class. Ten head-and-shoulder student portraits are shown.
Kathy Lovette’s Cued Speech Class, 1986-87. Beech Tree Elementary School was spared from closure in 1980. During the mid-1980s, the number of deaf or hard-of-hearing students at Beech Tree dwindled. The Cued Speech program for elementary-aged children at Beech Tree ended in 1987, and the preschool program in 1989.

A Sixth Grade

Today, sixth graders from our attendance area go to Glasgow Middle School, but during the first two decades of our history these students attended school at Beech Tree. Prior to the founding of the first intermediate schools in 1960, elementary school consisted of grades 1-7. Intermediate schools were created to specifically target the needs of children in grades 7 and 8. However, by the late 1980s, FCPS administrators began studying whether or not to restructure middle schools to grades 6-8. It was decided to phase in the change, beginning with Glasgow, Holmes, and Poe middle schools, however the restructuring never expanded beyond these three schools. The 1990-91 school year was the last time sixth graders attended Beech Tree Elementary School.

Color photograph of Mrs. Boush’s sixth grade class taken during the 1983 to 1984 school year. 25 students and Mrs. Boush are pictured.
Mrs. Boush’s 6th Grade Class, 1983-84.

School Spirit

Extracurricular and co-curricular activities and clubs have been an important part of student life at Beech Tree since the founding of our school. SCA, Safety Patrol, Band, and Chorus have been around since the earliest days. During the 1990s, students could join the Peer Mediators, Welcome Team, or contribute to “Leaves of Gold.” In the 2000s, Girls on the Run, Odyssey of the Mind, and the News Team were immensely popular.

Black and white photograph of the front exterior of Beech Tree Elementary School from our 1986 to 1987 yearbook. The cafeteria and main entrance are visible on the left, the two-story classroom wing at center, and the gymnasium addition is visible on the right. Cars are parked in the bus loop and on the street in front of our building.
Beech Tree Elementary School, 1987

International Night

The cultural and ethnic diversity we cherish in Fairfax County Public Schools developed slowly from the 1970s to the 2000s. In 1975, FCPS inaugurated the English as a Second Language (ESL) program serving 275 children, most of whom were refugees from Vietnam. From 1983 to 1993, the number of students receiving ESL services grew from 3,000 to 7,000, with the largest language groups being Vietnamese, Korean, and Hispanic, in that order. In the early 2000s, ESL was renamed English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), and by 2008 the number of students served by the program had grown to more than 21,750.

Black and white photograph of an ESL class from our 1987 to 1988 yearbook. Five children and a teacher are pictured. They are standing in a classroom in front of the blackboard.
An ESL Class at Beech Tree, 1988

In 1995, there were 112 students at Beech Tree receiving ESL services. One of our favorite annual traditions, International Night, resulted from this diversification of our student body. International Night evolved from 1990s-era celebrations such as the International Dinner and Chinese New Year festivities.

Color photograph from our 1993 to 1994 yearbook showing students participating in a Lion or Dragon Dance. The students are lined up in a row, underneath a long tail of red fabric extending from an intricately painted lion or dragon head worn by the student at the front of the group. The children are parading through a hallway.
Beech Tree students celebrating Chinese New Year in 1994. These observances generated tremendous excitement, and everyone enjoyed celebrating the diversity of the different nationalities represented in Beech Tree.