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C H A P T E R 1 ————— A Classroom a Day A latter-day Rip Van Winkle who fell asleep in Fairfax County in 1954 and woke up 20 years later would have found it hard to believe he was in the same place. A review of the county’s schools and enrollment figures provides an explanation. In 1954 FCPS had 42 elementary schools and 6 high schools. The school division operated two systems, one for white students and one for AfricanAmerican students. Six of the elementary schools and one of the high schools served African-American students. The one black high school, Luther Jackson, had just opened in 1954. Previously, African-American students from Fairfax County who desired a high school education had to commute to a vocational training center in Manassas, Virginia, or cross the Potomac River to attend a Washington, D.C. high school. Enrollment figures for Fairfax students ages 6 through 19 totaled 14,652, with half of this number consisting of students between 6 and 9 years of age (Annual Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction . . . , 1953–54, pp. 242–243). Roughly 8 percent of the total enrollment were AfricanAmerican students. By 1974 the number of schools serving the youth of Fairfax County had climbed to 168, including 18 high schools, 18 intermediate schools, and 4 combined high school/intermediate schools. Enrollment had skyrocketed to 136,508 students, over 9 times the number of students 20 years earlier. African-American and white students no longer attended separate schools. At the height of the construction program required to keep pace with this rapid growth, Fairfax was erecting the equivalent of a classroom a day. It is tempting to focus the story of Fairfax County Public Schools and its rise to educational prominence on enrollment growth and school construction. There is much more to the story, however. In the midst of a mushrooming school population, FCPS 9 had to confront the challenge of desegregation and state-sanctioned defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court. Close on the heels of desegregation came the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 with its emphasis on meeting the educational needs of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. No longer would the federal government ’s role in local education be a minor one. As Fairfax County Public Schools grew, organizational adjustments were necessitated. A Superintendent and small central office staff might have been able to oversee the operation of 48 schools, but not four times that number. Chapter 1 covers the history of FCPS from 1954 until 1976, when school enrollments began to fall. The opening section looks at the school system’s efforts to contend with surging enrollments during the ’50s and early ’60s. Subsequent sections address Fairfax’s response to court-ordered desegregation, a process that consumed the entire decade following the Brown decision; the expanding educational role of the federal government and its impact on Fairfax; the proliferation of programs designed to meet the special needs of different groups of students; and Fairfax’s growing interest in educational innovation and reorganization. The chapter closes with signs in the early ’70s that two decades of growth and progress were coming to an end. The school system had demonstrated its ability to cope successfully with growing enrollments, desegregation, and pressures to address special needs. Whether it could preserve gains in the face of retrenchment remained to be seen. Boomers by the Bushel Schools are built to accommodate a certain number of students . When enrollments grow so rapidly that new schools cannot be built fast enough, school capacities are quickly exceeded, creating conditions that can foster a variety of problems, including overcrowded classrooms and corridors, increased behavior problems, reduced curriculum choice, and diminished instructional effectiveness . To avoid these problems, school systems try to estimate population growth and complete the construction of new facilities before existing facilities burst at the seams. Despite its best efforts, FCPS, like many school systems in the ’50s and ’60s, found it almost impossible to keep up with the pace of growth. Mary Musick (1999), a veteran of almost half a century with FCPS, 10 Education Empire A Classroom a Day 11 KEY DATES FOR FAIRFAX COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS: 1954–1975 1954 U.S. Supreme Court strikes down school segregation in Brown v Board of Education of Topeka FCPS opens its first secondary school for African-American students 1955 Superintendent W. T. Woodson distributes first manual containing standard administrative practices 1956 Doctrine of “massive resistance” initiated by...


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