School History: 1970-2000
In the 1970s, many new concepts in education were being initiated. Bucknell, as always, was on the cutting edge of change. Bucknell was one of ten schools to participate in a pilot program to test the theories of Glaser's "Schools Without Failure," with ungraded classes, team teaching, and new math. To accommodate the implementation of these new ideas, Monday became a shortened day so teachers could have the time for planning they needed. Report cards were also revised and became more standardized throughout the county. Principal Cooley regularly held "coffees" with parents and community members to keep them educated and informed about these innovations.
In 1971, the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) acquired funds from a beautification program started in the 1960s by Lady Bird Johnson, the First Lady of the United States. 47 shrubs were purchased, and planting was scheduled to take place on May 8, 1971, with the help of volunteers. Ann Myatt, supervisor of the activity, had diligently placed markers around where holes were to be dug for the shrubs. It just so happened that same day was "clean-up" day, and a first grader methodically removed all the markers and deposited them in the trash, thoroughly satisfied that he had helped beautify the school.
The First Renovation
Bucknell Elementary School's first renovation was conducted in two-phases in the 1970s. Plans called for updating the lighting, heating, ventilation, and electrical systems, removing glass bricks, adding a full-sized gymnasium, and expanding and relocating the library as a "media center" to a more centralized location. In July 1974, the School Board authorized architects to proceed with drawing up the schematics for part of the systems renewal. Work on these upgrades began in the summer of 1976. In January 1977, the firm of Smith and Smith Architects, Inc., of Springfield, Virginia, was assigned to the second phase of the renovation and addition. One year later, as the plans neared completion, it was decided to simplify the designs because the projected cost of the project exceeded available funding. It was decided to relocate the media center into existing classroom space on the first floor and partition the old library into a resource area for speech and learning disability (LD) instruction. In June 1978, the School Board awarded the contract for the project to the N. S. Stavrou Construction Company, Inc., at a cost of $524,550. The gymnasium was completed the following school year and was dedicated on October 26, 1979.
It's hard to imagine now, but from 1955 to 1979 Bucknell Elementary School did not have a gymnasium. Prior to 1979, physical education was taught in a classroom on the ground floor level across from the fallout shelter. Marian Miller, an administrative assistant at our school, attended Bucknell as a child in the late 1960s and early 1970s. She recalls that during physical education class the children did a lot of exercises such as motion drills and jumping jacks. They were also taught square dancing. Outdoors, the children played kickball on the blacktop. One of Mrs. Miller's fondest memories as a student at Bucknell is of the home-cooked meals served in the cafeteria. Her favorite was Salisbury steak, served with rice and green beans. The cafeteria staff made the steak patties by hand out of hamburger meat. On special occasions, they also served homemade cookies and pies. She also said that back then children couldn't buy ice cream like they do today, because families could not afford it.
Bison and Bulldogs
Did you know that Bucknell's first mascot was a bison, and that our school colors were originally orange and blue? In July 1977, a white stuffed bison, which stood approximately three feet tall and had a maroon and yellow banner, was presented to Freda Skirvin, who became principal in 1976. This school mascot was displayed in the library, and mysteriously disappeared one day in the 1980s. Our mascot "Bucky" the Bulldog, and the new school colors of blue and white, were adopted during the 1985-86 school year.
From the beginning, Bucknell Elementary School was a center of activity for the community. There were fall and summer recreation programs, Little League baseball and football teams played games on our fields, and Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, and a 4-H club met in our school. Local citizen associations gathered in the building for their meetings and various activities, such as Halloween parties, Christmas parties, and community yard sales. Even a local church held services here temporarily when it ran out of space.
Another thing our building lacked, prior to the late-1980s, was air conditioning. When you look at old photographs of our school, you'll frequently see classroom windows propped open on warm days to allow the air to circulate throughout the school. Air conditioning was installed building-wide during the 1988-89 school year at a cost of $504,900. Also in 1988, the PTA raised more than $15,000 to build a new playground, and the community celebrated its completion with a dedication picnic.
The Sara J. Fowke Library
In February 1987, the Fairfax County School Board formally named our library in honor of Sara J. Fowke. Ms. Fowke was the librarian at Bucknell Elementary School from September 1969 until December 1986. She is fondly remembered for giving freely of her time and love to students and faculty, and giving personal attention to individual students—showing them how to “open doors” with books and the ability to read. Ms. Fowke's dedication and devotion earned her a nomination for the FCPS Teacher of the Year Award in 1985.
In 1993, construction began on the second renovation to Bucknell Elementary School. The project was completed approximately 18 months later at a cost of $3.3 million. A new library, computer lab, a stage in the gymnasium, and a new main entrance were constructed. On Friday, December 9, 1994, four decades of students, educators, and community members gathered to celebrate Bucknell's 40th anniversary and the completion of the renovation.
Also during the 1994-95 school year, the first English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes began at Bucknell. The program was added to accommodate the increasing numbers of non-native English speakers in the Bucknell community. For the first time, school signage was printed in multiple languages: Arabic, English, Korean, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
During the period of 1970 to 2000, Bucknell Elementary School had six principals: Rufus B. Cooley (1967-76), Freda Skirvin (1976-83), Janet Turney Mulvaney (1983-86), Mary Beth Spencer (1986-87), Nancy Dyer Manning (1987-90), and Juanita Trapp (1990-03). Enrollment at Bucknell gradually declined from approximately 600 students in 1970, to 329 in 1985, then rebounded again to about 400 students by 2000.