School History

Forestdale Elementary School opened on September 8, 1964. During our first year, enrollment was approximately 350 students. Forestdale’s first principal was Margaret T. Ford. She left in 1966, and became the elementary supervisor for Area I schools. Ford was succeeded by Ronald E. West, who led our school from 1966 to 1969.

Black and white yearbook portrait of Principal Ronald West. This picture comes from a 1971 to 1972 yearbook at North Springfield Elementary School where West became principal after leaving Forestdale. He is seated at a small round table reading a book to three students.
Principal Ronald E. West (1966-69)

Designing Forestdale

Forestdale Elementary School was designed by the architecture firm of Victor B. Spector and Associates, and was built by the Alcon Construction Company in 1964 at a cost of $509,700. Our building was originally planned to have 16 classrooms, but before construction commenced the Fairfax County School Board approved an increase to 20 classrooms. Our school was designed as a rectangle, with four hallways surrounding a courtyard in the center. The four additional classrooms were constructed in the center of this courtyard, and that is why we have two small courtyards in the middle of our building today.

Black and white photograph of the front of Forestdale Elementary School taken in the late 1960s. The photograph was taken from the south end of the bus loop and shows the cafeteria in the foreground, main entrance in the mid-ground, and the front classroom wing. The lights of the Lee High School stadium are visible in the far distance. There are shrubs planted in front of the school.
Forestdale Elementary School, Late 1960s

Construction of Forestdale was scheduled for completion by September 1, 1964, in time for the opening of schools on that date, but the contractor was unable to meet the deadline. Forestdale opened one week later while our building was still under construction. Only 13 of the 20 classrooms were ready for use, and the cafeteria and kitchen were not finished until November.


Color photograph of Mrs. Hudgins’ class during the 1975 to 1976 school year. The children appear to be in first or second grade. 17 children are pictured, seven of whom are girls. Principal Calvert is standing on the left and Mrs. Hudgins is standing on the right of the children. The children are arranged in three rows with one row seated and two rows standing. In front of the seated children is a sign that reads: Forestdale Elementary, 1975 – 1976, Miss Calvert, principal. A Sheltie breed dog is sitting on the floor next to this sign.
Forestdale Elementary School Class Photograph, 1975-76

You might not have noticed her at first, so take a second look at the above class photo and pay close attention to the front row next to the sign. Your eyes aren't deceiving you—that is a Shetland Sheep Dog (also known as a Sheltie). Forestdale alumni from the 1970s would instantly recognize this pooch. Her name was Dutchess, and she belonged to Principal Nancy Calvert. Principal Calvert often brought Dutchess to work with her and let her very intelligent, well-trained dog roam the halls and join classes as long as the children and Dutchess behaved themselves.

Black and white portrait of Principal Nancy Calvert from Forestdale’s 1977 to 1978 yearbook. She is seated at a table surrounded by five students. Dutchess is seated on a stool between two students to the right of Calvert.
Principal Nancy A. Calvert (1969-78) with Dutchess and students, 1978

Renovations and Additions

When Forestdale first opened, our school was built without a gymnasium. Physical education was taught in an empty classroom or outside through structured play. On rainy or snowy days, games like Crab Soccer were played in the cafeteria. The first addition to Forestdale, consisting of a gymnasium and a music classroom, was constructed in 1987. In 1992, construction began on the first building-wide renewal of Forestdale.

Black and white photograph of construction progress on the music room and art classroom addition to Forestdale. The picture is from our 1992 to 1993 yearbook. Window-mounted air conditioning units are visible in the classroom windows. A construction worker, wearing a hard hat, is carrying supplies on his shoulder. The new classroom wing is visible behind him. It is two-stories tall and has a brick veneer. The windows are not yet in place, and construction materials are placed around the structure.

During the renovation, air conditioning was added throughout the building. The library, originally located cattycorner to the main office, was moved to its present location. The main office was expanded outward, and a second music classroom and an art room were added to the gymnasium wing. Two classrooms for the School Age Child Care (SACC) program and three general education classrooms were added to the north side of the building. The modular classrooms behind our school were built in the early 2000s. Watch these changes unfold in this animated series of aerial photographs courtesy of the Fairfax County Park Authority.

This series of aerial photographs shows Forestdale Elementary School from directly overhead in 1960, 1976, 1990, 1997, 2009, and 2017. The 1960 aerial is in black and white. The school site is undeveloped and is still a part of the Oak Grove estate. The school site is part open-field and part forest. The 1976 photograph is in color and shows the building as originally constructed without a gymnasium. The driveway and bus loop are in the same configuration as they are today. The building is rectangular in shape and two courtyards are visible in the center of the structure. The Oak Grove home is visible to the northwest. The 1990 photograph shows the first addition to the school consisting of a gymnasium and music room. It has been added to the rear of the building. The 1997 photograph shows that the Oak Grove house has been torn down and the Sunrise Assisted Living facility has been constructed in its place. The newest additions to the school, consisting of a music room, art room, expanded main office, and five classrooms, have been constructed. In 2009, the modular classroom wing behind the school has been added. It is a very large addition, and approximately doubled the available classroom space. The 2017 photograph shows that additional trailers have been added outside the building.
Forestdale is a sweet little school, and the best kept secret in Fairfax County. We constantly talk with our children about respect, honesty, fairness and kindness. They use those words all the time. I think that has a lot to do with the atmosphere in our building.
~ Terri Cavender, Principal of Forestdale (1997-06)
Black and white photograph from our 1983 to 1984 yearbook showing Forestdale’s Safety Patrol. A large group of approximately 45 students are posed under the archways that formerly lined the main entrance to our school. The students are wearing safety patrol belts and sashes. Several adults are pictured with the group.
Forestdale’s Safety Patrol, 1984

Kindergarten and Pre-School

Did you know that when Forestdale opened there were no kindergarteners in our school? A kindergarten program was piloted in several schools in 1967 and proved so successful that one year later Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) implemented kindergarten county-wide. FCPS enrolled approximately 8,000 children in kindergarten in September 1968. In 1990, a pre-school program was started at Forestdale. The program remained in place until 2003 when it was moved to the newly opened Island Creek Elementary School.

Black and white photograph from Forestdale’s 1990 to 1991 yearbook showing the pre-school class. Five students and two teachers are pictured.
Forestdale’s Pre-School Class, 1990-91

The Jean M. Erickson Library

Jean Erickson, for whom our library is named, was the very first librarian at Forestdale. Following her retirement in June 1990, the Fairfax County School Board officially named our library in her honor. Mrs. Erickson is fondly remembered by Forestdale alumni. She would have story time in the library, and the children would sit in rapt attention as she read such classics as Madeline and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Mrs. Erickson knew the stories so well she could read the books without looking at the words. Her unique gift of storytelling instilled the love of reading in countless Forestdale students.

Black and white photograph of Jean Erickson from our 1977 to 1978 yearbook. It is a head-and-shoulders portrait.
Jean M. Erickson, 1978

Mrs. Erickson is also fondly remembered for giving freely of her time and talents to students, school staff, and the community alike. Her expertise, innovative spirit, high degree of professional commitment, enthusiasm, and sheer love of learning significantly influenced the lives of all those who knew her. Jean Erickson passed away in December 2016.

What’s in a Name?

Forestdale Elementary School was built on land that was once part of Oak Grove, a historic property owned by the Broders family. Learn more about the history of our area and the origin of the name Forestdale in this video produced for Fairfax County Public Schools’ cable television channel Red Apple 21.

Fun Facts

The construction of Springfield Mall in the early 1970s was of tremendous interest to Forestdale students. Through their classroom windows, students could see the heavy construction machinery moving dirt and gravel through a haze of dust, and watched as the steel framework of the building took shape. One former student admits to pretending to complete her school work while actually watching the construction instead. After the mall was completed, Forestdale’s physical education teacher instructed students to “Run to Montgomery Wards!” meaning they had to run across the field behind our school and not stop until they reached the fence along Frontier Drive.

Color photograph showing Mrs. Hudgins’ class at Forestdale. 23 children are pictured, arranged in four rows. Hudgins can be seen on the far right behind her students. She is wearing a red blouse and skirt.
Forestdale Elementary School Class Photograph, 1978-79

Melissa Belote, a former competitive swimmer, represented the United States in the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany. She brought home three gold medals and set a new world record in the women’s 200-meter backstroke. Belote grew up in Springfield and attended LHS. In the fall of 1972, she visited Forestdale Elementary for an assembly and the students were given an opportunity to touch her medals.

Color photograph of Olympic swimmer Melissa Belote. It is a head-and-shoulders portrait. She is wearing a yellow jacket over a yellow t-shirt.
Melissa Belote, circa 1972, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Our Principals

1964 – 1966: Margaret T. Ford
1966 – 1969: Ronald E. West
1969 – 1978: Nancy A. Calvert
1978 – 1983: Corinne F. Jeffries
1983 – 1986: Cynthia Buck
1986 – 1991: Susan O. Byrne
1991 – 1997: Elizabeth “Betsey” Fenske
1997 – 2006: Theresa “Terri” Cavender
2006 – 2014: Cheryl Toth
2014 – 2020: Merrell Dade
2020 - Present: Jennifer "Jenny" Cunneen