School History: 1945-1955
Bucknell Elementary School opened during the post-World War II period known as the baby boom. Following World War II, rapid growth of the Federal government brought an influx of workers and returning veterans to Northern Virginia. In June 1945 there were 8,235 children enrolled in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) at 42 schools. By June 1949 enrollment had increased to 12,118 children, but there were still only 42 schools in operation. In October 1949, the Fairfax County School Board began discussing the need to locate suitable land upon which to build a school in the Bucknell Manor subdivision, however it took almost three years to secure a proper site. In the 1950s, Fairfax County’s landscape was rapidly evolving from one of rural dairy farms into sprawling suburban subdivisions. FCPS administrators had been projecting record enrollment growth for several years, but were unprepared when actual growth far exceeded their expectations. Because very little funding was available for school construction, FCPS teachers and students were forced to cope with large class sizes and difficult classroom conditions for many, many years.
Design and Construction
Funding for Bucknell Elementary School was secured in February 1953, when an $11 million school bond was approved by the voters of Fairfax County. Bucknell Elementary School was designed in 1953 by the architecture firm of Willgoos and Chase of Alexandria, Virginia. Originally, Bucknell was designed as a 14-classroom building with a library and a multi-purpose room called a cafetorium (a combined cafeteria and auditorium). In February 1954, the School Board awarded the contract for the construction of our school to Allen C. Minnix & Sons at a cost of $363,897. However, it soon became clear that 14 classrooms would not be enough to house the significant number of school-aged children moving into the neighborhoods surrounding Bucknell Elementary School. Three months into construction, the School Board directed Willgoos and Chase to prepare plans for an addition to Bucknell to include as many classrooms as could most economically and practically be added to the school. A nine-classroom addition was approved, bringing the total number of classrooms to 23 and the enrollment capacity to 690. The addition would make Bucknell the largest elementary school in Fairfax County at that time.
The First Year
The 1954-55 school year began on September 1 with 28,700 children enrolled in Fairfax County Public Schools. Construction of Bucknell Elementary School was incomplete, so future Bucknell students were housed at Belle View Elementary School.
In December 1954, it was announced that Dr. Sylvia Dunnavant Allen, principal of Woodlawn Elementary School since 1944, had been appointed principal of Bucknell Elementary School. Her transfer became effective in January 1955, when Bucknell was ready to begin operation.
Bucknell Elementary School opened its doors to students for the first time on Monday, January 24, 1955. Some of the teachers at Bucknell during the first year were Ruth M. Chester, Marjorie S. Hess, Lillian B. Kibler, Eileen A. Markham, Joyce H. Milam, Madelyn T. Post, Shirley A. Shipherd, Marie E. Sigmund, Frances J. Smith, and Evelyn J. Tubbs. Their salaries ranged between $3,200 and $4,100 for the year, depending upon years of experience and level of certification, with the majority of the teachers earning around $3,300.