Richmond Highway History Quiz II: Back to School

front of brick school building
Woodlawn Elementary School opened at its currently location in 1938 in this building.

The holiday break is just a memory and the school year is back in full swing (weather permitting). So what better time to test your knowledge of the history of the Richmond Highway area’s schools.

Once you’ve taken the quiz, here’s a brief background on the history of schools in the Richmond Highway area (no quiz spoilers included).

Some of the oldest schools in Fairfax County are in this area, with a few having their roots in the 19th century. Like most of the county, the area was largely rural through the first half of the 20th century, and most schools were very small. One of the one-room schoolhouses, the Groveton School, still stands today on Popkins Lane and is now owned by St. Louis Catholic Church.

The Groveton School was built in the late 1800s and sold to the Catholic Diocese of Richmond in the 1920s after it became too small.

In 1939 one of the most recognizable buildings on the highway, the original Mount Vernon High School, opened its doors. It was just the third high school in the entire county at the time. It would be 17 years before another high school opened in the Route 1 area.

Pages showing girls basketball teams
From the 1959 Groveton High School yearbook. Click to enlarge.

The vast majority of schools in the Route 1 area were opened during a population boom in the 1950s and 1960s. In a period of less than 20 years, more than a dozen new elementary schools and five new junior and senior high schools were built.

The time period also saw the integration of schools, ending an era where African Americans living in the Route 1 area had few options for public education, particularly at the middle and high school levels. Although Brown v. Board of Education struck down “separate but equal” schools in 1954, it would be well into the 1960s before all schools in the county were integrated.

year book page with various images on it, including kids playing in the snow
From Mount Vernon’s 1977 yearbook. Click to enlarge.

Starting in the 1970s the school-age population in the Route 1 area leveled off and began dropping. This decline continued from the late 1970s through the 1980s. This led to sudden closures and mergers between schools — including at some schools that had only been open for a short time. The choices made were controversial, none more so than a merger of two high schools that is still a sore spot with many who lived through it.

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