Graham Road Elementary School opened on September 5, 1950, during the post-World War II period known as the baby boom. In 1950, there were 16,163 children enrolled in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS). By 1960 that number would climb to 59,870. As early as 1948, FCPS officials were projecting record enrollment growth, but these numbers would far exceed their estimates. In April 1949, the Fairfax County School Board directed FCPS staff to develop plans to construct emergency four-room school buildings. In October of that year, Charles Rose, President of Jefferson Village, Inc., offered to construct a four-room cinderblock school on Graham Road similar to the other emergency schools already under construction at a cost of $32,500. Mr. Rose explained that as the developer of the Jefferson Village subdivision that was the cause of so much school overcrowding in the Graham Road area he felt a moral obligation to help. The School Board took Mr. Rose up on his offer and construction commenced in January 1950.
For whom was Graham Road named?
The First Teachers
When Graham Road Elementary School opened it initially operated as an annex of Oak Street Elementary School under the administration of that school’s principal. On August 17, 1950, the Fairfax County School Board hired Graham Road’s first teachers and their salaries were recorded in the School Board’s meeting minutes. Mrs. Neva E. Wagner was hired as head teacher at $3,300. Other teachers were Miss Betty Lee Wiley ($2,200), Miss Janet L. Graham ($2,200), and Mrs. Juanita P. Peale ($2,600). Sadly, Mrs. Wagner passed away in August 1951, just a few weeks after being appointed Graham Road’s first principal. She was replaced by Mrs. Ethel R. Carter who served for one year (1951-52), and was replaced by Virginia Dowden Andrus who served as Graham Road’s principal from 1952 until her retirement from FCPS in 1968.
Graham Road Elementary School was overcrowded the day it opened. The four classrooms and four teachers were quickly overwhelmed by the sheer number of students, and that number grew on an almost daily basis. Only a month into the school year, the four classrooms were partitioned in half to make eight classrooms and additional staff were hired. By November, plans for the first addition to Graham Road Elementary were already in the works. A 20-classroom addition was completed in the fall of 1952. The Evening Star newspaper reported in December 1952 that the addition was designed to bring Graham Road’s enrollment capacity to 600 students, but by the time it opened 776 children were enrolled at Graham Road. Principal Andrus wrote a letter to the School Board in 1952 advising that the large increase in enrollment made it impossible to provide sufficient textbooks for the children, and the P.T.A. was unable to assist with acquiring books because its funds were tied up in establishing a school cafeteria. In December 1956, the Fairfax County School Board authorized the construction of a second addition of 23 classrooms to Graham Road. A third addition was authorized in 1967. The overcrowded conditions at Graham Road Elementary School during the 1950s and 1960s were not unique. All the schools in the eastern part of Fairfax County faced similar conditions during the baby boom.
The Fairfax County public school system was founded in 1870. For the first 76 years of its history, public schools in Fairfax County were segregated by race. Graham Road Elementary School was built to serve the rapidly expanding white suburban communities west of Falls Church. At that time, African-American children from the area first attended the Falls Church Colored School, and later James Lee Elementary School on Annandale Road. All racially segregated public schools in Fairfax County were closed at the end of the 1965-66 school year, marking the beginnings of the ethnically and culturally diverse Graham Road Elementary school community we know today.
Devonshire Elementary School
In 2012, Graham Road Elementary School moved from its original location into a newly renovated building on the opposite end of Graham Road at its intersection with Lee Highway. This building originally opened in February 1958 as Devonshire Elementary School. Devonshire was constructed to relieve the overcrowded conditions at Graham Road. By the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, the areas in the eastern part of Fairfax County that had experienced unprecedented growth during the baby boom began to see a gradual decline in school enrollment. By 1975, enrollment had diminished to the point where the Fairfax County School Board began to consider the question of whether or not to close some schools because many classrooms sat vacant. Devonshire Elementary and Graham Road Elementary were both put forward on a list of possible school closures. In 1980, the School Board voted to close Devonshire Elementary School and the building was repurposed as an administrative office. In the early 2000s, school enrollments in eastern Fairfax County were again on the rise. Given the age of Graham Road Elementary School’s building it was deemed more economical to renovate the Devonshire building and relocate Graham Road’s student body there. In 2008, the School Board put this plan into motion and four years later it culminated in the opening of our brand new school.