School History

Forest Edge Elementary School opened on September 7, 1971, and was the third elementary school built in Reston after Lake Anne and Hunters Woods. Our first principal was Ronald N. Carpenter. Forest Edge was designed by the architecture firm of Charles M. Goodman Associates of Washington, D.C., and was built from 1970-71 by Burrows and Preston, Inc., at a cost of $1.2 million.

Black and white photograph of the construction of Forest Edge Elementary School. In the foreground, there is a sign announcing the name of the school and that it will be opening in fall of 1971. Workmen can be seen performing various tasks. In the background, there are trees without foliage.
Forest Edge Elementary School, 1971. Courtesy of George Mason University, Special Collections and Archives.  

Our school was one of the first in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) to have classrooms built specifically for special education, music, art, and physical education. The entire building, with the exception of the gymnasium, was air conditioned–a rarity among schools at this time.

Black and white photograph of the completed Forest Edge Elementary School. The photograph is undated but was probably taken shortly after the building opened because of the trees planted in front of the school. These trees are not visible on aerial imagery after 1976.
Forest Edge Elementary School, Undated. Courtesy of George Mason University, Special Collections and Archives. 

Open Schools

During the 1960s and 1970s, an educational philosophy called “open schools” became very popular among educators. Most of the new elementary schools built in Fairfax County during this era, including Forest Edge, were designed as open schools. Open school classrooms were built without doors and were clustered around "pods" that could be divided with moveable partitions into separate learning areas. In each pod, five or six teachers worked as a team with children of multiple ages grouped according to their differing abilities and skill levels. At Forest Edge there were six pods, the largest of which held 180 students. The pods were named after lunar craters found by NASA astronauts during the Apollo 15 mission: Arrowhead, Bridge, Dune, Front, St. George, and Salyut.

Black and white photograph of Salyut Crater that appeared in the Sun Newspaper. The clipping does not show the newspaper’s printing date, but it was likely between 1971 and 1973 because no classroom partitions are visible in the photograph. The first partitions to the learning area were added in 1973. Three safety patrol students can be seen in the foreground putting on their belts. In the background students are clustered around groups of tables.
Salyut was one of six craters at Forest Edge Elementary School. In Salyut students from three grade levels were grouped together. Safety Patrol members Sabrina Plisco, Lisa Stansberry, and Alyson Dannenberg are pictured getting ready for dismissal. Courtesy of the Virginia Room, Fairfax County Public Library. 

A typical day in Front Crater began with homeroom, followed by language arts, lunch, math, physical education, music, social studies, and science. During free periods, and with a teacher’s permission, a student who found a lesson in another part of the pod interesting could join the other group and take part in the lesson. The pod with the youngest children was Bridge Crater, which held groups of children between the ages five and seven.  

Black and white photograph of St. George’s Crater that appeared in the Sun Newspaper. The clipping does not show the newspaper’s printing date, but it was likely between 1971 and 1973 because no classroom partitions are visible in the photograph. A group of approximately 30 students are clustered around a table in the center of the crater where the teacher is reading a story. The image caption reads: Mrs. Ellen Andrus reads a story to her group in St. George’s Crater. Each crater was named after ones found on the moon by the crew of NASA’s Apollo 15 spaceflight.
Courtesy of the Virginia Room, Fairfax County Public Library

Forest Edge was originally built for a total capacity of 990 students, and by February 1973 was slightly over capacity at 1,025 students. In January 1974, then P.T.A. president Diane Altman wrote a letter to the Fairfax County School Board requesting additional teachers for Forest Edge because enrollment had swelled to approximately 1,150 students. The rapid student enrollment growth was driven by the continued development of Reston which drew many families with young children to the area. School-age population growth led to the opening of three more elementary schools in Reston in the 1970s: Dogwood in 1974, Terraset in 1977, and Sunrise Valley in 1979.

Black and white photograph of Forest Edge Elementary School from our 1994 to 1995 yearbook.
Forest Edge Elementary School, 1995

The Ferret and The Eagle

In 1981, the entire school was involved in selecting a school motto, school colors, and a school mascot. The first appearance of a mascot in our yearbooks was in 1986.

Black and white illustration of the ferret mascot from a yearbook. The mascot appears to have been drawn in pencil or ink and the artwork was signed by Denis Cummings.
The ferret mascot from a Forest Edge yearbook.

The ferret mascot was replaced by our current mascot, the eagle, in 1988.

Collage of three Forest Edge yearbook covers. On the left is the cover from 1981 to 1982. It has a photograph of an astronaut on the moon planting an American flag. The title reads: Forest Edge, stepping into the future, beginning a new decade. In the center of the collage is the cover of our 1988 to 1989 yearbook. The cover features a student-drawn illustration of a bald eagle. The eagle has its wings up and is landing on the branch of a tree. A pine forest, snow-covered mountain, and blue sky with clouds are visible in the distance. The third cover is from our 1994 to 1995 yearbook. It is printed in three colors, white, brown, and pale green. In the center are the words: Forest Edge, a great place to grow. Perched on top of the word forest is a nest with a pair of baby eagles in it. The cover is flanked on both sides by a pair of trees.
Yearbook covers from 1981-82, 1988-89, and 1994-95.  

During the week of May 7, 1981, Forest Edge Elementary School celebrated its tenth birthday. Every morning that week, the school day began with a radio show which was produced by some of the teachers. Each of the broadcasts contained stories related to the history of our school. Events held during the week included a science fair, a cultural arts fair, an arts display, a tree planting ceremony, and a music program featuring our school’s string orchestra, band, and chorus.

Photograph of a printing of the Forest Edge School Song from a yearbook. The text reads: Forest Edge is a very good school, the best school in the nation. Because we like our school so much, we sing this exclamation. Forest Edge is quite a school; we go there every morning. We read and write and write and read, and do a lot of learning. So let’s hear a cheer for Forest Edge, our spirits linked together. With test scores in the highest rank, the future we can weather.
The Forest Edge School Song, 1982

50/50

In 1982, the six craters, or learning bays as they were called by that time, were half-subdivided into three enclosed classrooms - 18 in all. The classrooms were enclosed to make classroom spaces more manageable, comfortable, and intimate. When Forest Edge was built, the original architect created plans showing where walls could be added in the future if so desired, and the new walls were placed where the architect intended for them to go. When completed, Forest Edge became 50 percent open classrooms and 50 percent enclosed classrooms. Open space classrooms eventually fell out of favor altogether in FCPS, and at Forest Edge the remaining open classrooms were enclosed during our first building-wide renovation in 2003.

Two color photographs, side-by-side, of the building renovation during the early 2000s. Both show the outside of the building. In the photograph on the left, an area that was once a basketball court has been ripped up and a new wing of the building is being constructed. The cinderblock walls are starting to go up and a backhoe is working the foreground. In the photograph on the right, the sidewalk that led between the original two main wings of the building has been ripped up. The ground has been excavated along the foundation. This section will be enclosed during the renovation and will become part of the new library.
Yearbook photographs of the 2003-06 renovation.

During the 2003 renovation, a stage, new classrooms, and new computer labs were built, wireless internet and SmartBoards were added in every classroom, and the library was redesigned. The renewal was completed in 2006 at a cost of $8.2 million.

Yet, with all of these incredible changes, the fantastic spirit of the school remains unchanged. Forest Edge remains a school that accepts people for what they are and what they do – a warm, nurturing environment where students can grow both socially and academically.
~ Frank Bensinger, Principal of Forest Edge (1999-2011)
Color aerial photograph of Forest Edge Elementary School taken from a helicopter hovering above Becontree Lane. Numerous trailers and modular classrooms are visible on school grounds; in the parking lot and behind the school. Work hasn't begun yet on the outside of the building, but it appears a construction trailer is in place behind the school. The trees are in full leaf and the parking lot is full of cars, so the picture was taken while school was in session.
Forest Edge Elementary School, Circa 2003

Activities and Clubs

Extra-curricular and co-curricular activities and clubs have been a staple of student life at Forest Edge since its founding. Strings, band, and chorus have been offered at Forest Edge for decades. If you look through our old yearbooks, you’ll find some short-lived clubs and others that still exist albeit with different names. During the 1990s, Gentlemen by Choice, the Young Astronauts Club, Chess Club, Computer Club, Homework Shop, Math Club, and Poetry Club were very popular.

Black and white photograph of the Just Say No Club taken in the early 1990s. Fifteen students and the club sponsor are pictured.
The "Just Say No" Club was made up of fifth and sixth grade students. It was created to teach students how to handle negative peer pressure, and to give students an awareness of the value and importance of leading a drug and alcohol-free life.

During the early 2000s, the Chess, Drama, Harry Potter, TV Studio, and Earthsavers clubs became immensely popular at Forest Edge.

Color photograph of the Earthsavers Club from the 1996 Forest Edge yearbook. Seven students and two sponsors are standing around a large, blue recycling bin. A sign on the bin reads: No Trash! Only recycled paper.
The Earthsavers Club was originally formed in the 1990s, and was called the Environmental Club until 1996.

The Forest Edge Pledge

Written in 1997 by students, the Forest Edge Pledge states: I am a proud student at Forest Edge. I can achieve more by working hard. I can accomplish many things if I put my mind to it. I will try to do my best. I will respect adults, peers, and myself. I can succeed; I will succeed, because I am a proud student of Forest Edge.

Color yearbook photograph of students who served in the Forest Edge Safety Patrol. Seven students, wearing bright orange belts, are pictured. Some are standing, some kneeling, around the sign in front of our school. The sign reads: Forest Edge Elementary, established 1971. The sign is made out of wood and is painted brown and dark green with white lettering. An emblem of a tree is in the center.
Forest Edge Safety Patrol, 1998

The Gena Rohlfs Memorial Garden

Stroll up the sidewalk from our school to Becontree Lane and you’ll find a path leading to a beautiful garden of tulips, hydrangeas, Hyperion daylilies, Gold Flame spireas, and butterfly bushes. At the center of this oasis is a circle of stone pavers with a plaque at the center. The garden was created to honor a former Forest Edge teacher, Reginann “Gena” Rohlfs, who passed away in 2008.

Two color photographs side-by-side. On the left is a portrait of Gena Rohlfs. She is standing in a forest and is wearing a backpack and is holding a camera. On the right is a picture of the plaque at the center of the memorial garden. It reads: Our Beloved Teacher, Reginann Rohlfs, 1948 to 2008. Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who matter don't mind, and those who mind don't matter - Dr. Seuss.

Gena Rohlfs was Forest Edge’s resident zoologist, rocket engineer, mythologist, and gardener. She was a lover of music, art, theatre, poetry, storytelling, history, and math. To quote her eulogy:

Gena did not teach from behind a desk; she taught from her heart, and her heart is with us now and always. Her legacy is demonstrated in the hundreds of friends, students, and families whose lives she has touched so profoundly. Her contributions are immeasurable; her lessons, about life and its pursuit, are permanent. The old saying “Once a teacher, always a teacher” provides us with the knowledge of comfort that Gena will continue to teach each of us how to lead more courageous lives, how to care about life as deeply as she cared, how to love as purely and passionately as she loved. Thank you, Gena.

Our Principals

Forest Edge Elementary School has had eight principals since we opened in 1971. During the decade of the 1970s, there were three principals: Ronald N. Carpenter (1971-1974), Margaret A. Koryda (1974-1977), and Sue Lee Williamson (1977-1981). Pictured below are principals Carpenter and Williamson. At the present time, we do not have a photograph of Margaret Koryda.

On the left is a portrait of Principal Carpenter from the Fairfax County Public Schools staff directory, 1970 to 1971. On the right is a portrait of Principal Williamson. She is seated in her office at her desk.
Ronald Carpenter and Sue Williamson

During the 1980s, Forest Edge had two principals: Sheila Bender (1981-1986) and William D. Stewart (1986-1990).

On the left is a portrait of Principal Bender from the Fairfax Association of Elementary School Principals directory, 1997 to 1998. On the right is a portrait of Principal Stewart taken in 1989. He is seated in his office.
Sheila Bender and William Stewart

From 1990 to the present, Forest Edge has had three principals: Franklin L. Bensinger (1990-2011), Kim Price (2011-2015), and our current principal Leona Smith-Vance (2015-Present).

On the left is a portrait of Principal Bensinger taken in 1992. He is seated at his desk. In the center is a portrait of Principal Price taken in 2012. She is seated at her desk signing papers. On the right is a portrait of Principal Smith-Vance taken in 2016. She is standing in the library with her arm on a bookshelf.
Frank Bensinger, Kim Price, and Leona Smith-Vance

Don't Be Afraid of Excellence

My hope for the boys and girls of Forest Edge is that you make the most of your time here; that you study hard and learn all you can. Make friends and learn from them. Help each other to be the best you all can be. Get to know your teachers and harvest all the knowledge and wisdom they have to share. School can be fun but more importantly this is where you’ll get the necessary tools to be a productive, successful member of society. Don’t be afraid of excellence. Go after it each day of your lives. You were born to be winners. 
~ Assistant Principal Carolyn Williams’ 1989 yearbook message to students.