School History

Learn about the history of our school

Cardinal Forest Elementary School opened on Friday, January 13, 1967. During the summer of 1966, our first principal, Margaret Ford, and her administrative staff were housed at Keene Mill Elementary School. This is where our first students came to register in August 1966. When the school term began on September 6, 1966, Cardinal Forest’s students and staff were housed at Olde Creek Elementary School. 213 students were enrolled in Cardinal Forest on the first day of school.

Learn about the construction of our school.

Cardinal Forest’s First Teachers

Our first teachers were Ann McKay, Elaine Wilson, Pauline Jensen, Nancy Lukehart, Clara Rathke, Janie Crompton, and Sue DeLong. Willa Palm was the educational secretary and Merlyn Sprague was a part-time secretary. After our building opened in January 1967, new students continued to enroll in school every week. This necessitated the hiring of another teacher, Jean Yardumian, who joined the staff in February. The head custodian was Mr. K. K. Bevins, and Anna V. Weber was our first librarian. Anna Weber remained at Cardinal Forest until 1983. After she retired, the Fairfax County School Board formally named our library in her honor.

Black and white photograph of Cardinal Forest Elementary School taken around 1969.
Cardinal Forest Elementary School, circa 1969.

Welcome Kindergartners

Did you know that when Cardinal Forest opened there were no kindergartners in our school? During the 1967-68 school year, a kindergarten program was piloted in several schools and proved so successful that one year later Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) implemented kindergarten county-wide. 75 kindergartners walked through the doors of Cardinal Forest on the first day of school in September 1968.

Color photograph from the 1960s or 1970s of Cardinal Forest’s Safety Patrol.
Cardinal Forest Elementary School’s Safety Patrol

Fun Facts

In 1968, school lunches, including milk, cost 35 cents!  Milk could be purchased separately for three cents, and ice cream could be purchased for 12 cents.  Soft drinks could not be brought to school by order of the School Board, and students also had to follow a very specific dress code.

Photograph of a parent handbook showing the student dress code. The code states: Students in grades 4-6 cannot wear shorts except for special P.E. events. Boys are required to wear regular or sport shirts, which are to be buttoned, and shirt tails are to be tucked in. Boys are required to have their hair cut and must be neatly and cleanly dressed. Girls are allowed to wear shorts, slacks or jeans only for certain types of physical education activities. Sweaters, skirts and dresses should be large and long enough to prevent an indecent appearance when sitting or participating in P.E. activities. Girls should not wear their hair in rollers or pincurls.
Cardinal Forest Parent Handbook, 1968-69.

A Decade of Growth

The first addition to Cardinal Forest began construction in the fall of 1969 and was completed one year later at a cost of $529,000. A gymnasium, rooms for music and science, and a new classroom wing with a resource area pod were constructed on the northeast side of the building. The addition increased the pupil-capacity of Cardinal Forest by 240 students. This was well-timed because from 1968 to 1976, the number of students enrolled at Cardinal Forest grew from 575 to 845, making Cardinal Forest one of the largest elementary schools in Fairfax County at that time.

Aerial view of Cardinal Forest Elementary School from 1976. The old and new portions of the building have different colored roofs. The original building has a dark grey roof and the new wing of the building has a light grey roof.
The new addition doubled the size of Cardinal Forest Elementary School, and is easily distinguishable in this aerial photograph from 1976 because of its light-colored roof.

A Decade of Change

The 1980s ushered in several changes at Cardinal Forest Elementary School. Our student enrollment peaked at 862 pupils in 1983. The following year, enrollment plunged to 590 students due to a boundary change by the School Board.

Cardinal Forest class photograph taken during the 1984 to 1985 school year. 24 students and their teacher are pictured.
Mrs. Saul’s Class, 1984-85.

In the early 1980s, Cardinal Forest offered English as a Second Language (ESL) classes two days per week. Thirteen children were enrolled in the ESL program in 1981. At the same time, Cardinal Forest had three special education classrooms for children receiving Learning Disabled Self-contained (LDSC) services.

Black and white photograph of two students sitting at a computer workstation.
Computers came into use for instruction at Cardinal Forest in the 1980s. This photograph is from 1986.

Cardinal Forest went through a succession of principals in the 1980s. Long-time principal Elaine H. Smith (1968-1983) left to open Cherry Run Elementary School. She was followed by Bernice S. Howard (1983-1984), Donna Maccubbin (1984-1986), and Marilyn Arwood (1986-1992).

Black and white photograph of the front exterior of Cardinal Forest Elementary School taken in 1986.
Cardinal Forest Elementary School, 1986.
Black and white photograph of Cardinal Forest’s broadcast television news team, taken in 1988. Six children and one adult are pictured. They are standing next to a television and VCR on a portable cart, and a small video camera on a tripod.
The Cardinal Forest News Team, 1988.

Renovations and Upgrades

The 1990s witnessed two major changes at Cardinal Forest Elementary School. Air-conditioning was installed in 1995, and our school’s first major building renovation began construction in December 1998.

Learn more about the 1998-2001 renovation.

Into the 21st Century

Today, Cardinal Forest students thrive in a culturally diverse population with general education, special education, and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programs. The strength of our academic program is coupled with the school-wide behavior initiative called Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) that focuses on positive outcomes of student behavior. Responsive Classroom focuses on building a caring and connected community within the classroom and the school. This blended programming provides a strong foundation for personal citizenship and expectations for developing social skills in preparation for 21st century learning skills and connected to FCPS Portrait of a Graduate.

Photograph of two students looking at a globe.
Cardinal Forest Students, 2005-06.

Differentiated instruction and problem based learning allows students to explore authentic learning opportunities and take ownership of their learning. In addition to classroom instruction, students participate in activities such as Band, Strings, Patrols, SCA Spirit Days, and various after-school clubs.

Photograph of two students sitting at a computer in 1999.
Cardinal Forest Students, 1999.

Unlike the late 20th century when Cardinal Forest students’ use of technology was limited, today our school has a state-of-the-art computer lab outfitted with the most current applications to facilitate learning. SMART Boards enhance teacher instruction and engage interactive student participation in every classroom. Mobile laptop computer labs supplement classroom computer stations, which are used extensively for research, science labs and ESOL classrooms. Cardinal Forest students strive for excellence in academics, in citizenship, and in life. Our motto is: Respectful, Responsible and Ready to Learn each day.

Photograph of a commemorate t-shirt created for Cardinal Forest’s 50th anniversary.
On Friday, September 30, 2016, Cardinal Forest celebrated its 50th anniversary with a school-wide assembly which included the introduction of a new school song and a pictorial history of our school.

The Mighty Red Birds

From the very beginning, our school mascot has always been the cardinal. The look of our mascot has changed quite a bit since 1967.

Black and white photographs of Cardinal Forest’s mascot in 1967 and 1984. The red bird on the left is a silhouette of a cardinal on a shield. The mascot on the right is a cartoonish depiction of a cardinal.
The first Might Red Bird (left), and in 1984 (right).
Close-up color photograph of a Cardinal Forest student taken in 1993. A cardinal has been painted on her face.
Cardinal Forest Student, 1993-94.
Photographs of the covers of three Cardinal Forest yearbooks. They are, left to right, 1987, 2014, 2017.
Cardinal Forest Yearbook Covers, 1987, 2014, and 2017.

What's in a Name?

Learn about the origin of our school's name in this video produced for Fairfax County Public Schools’ cable television channel Red Apple 21.

Our Principals

Margaret T. Ford (1966), Courtney H. Gibson (1966-1968), Charles R. Hughes (Interim, 1968), Elaine H. Smith (1968-1983), Bernice S. Davis Howard (1983-1984), Donna M. Maccubbin (1984-1986), Marilyn D. Arwood (1986-1990), Patricia Kreber (1990-1993), Jane White (1993-1998), Susan Benezra (1998-2001), Joan M. Freck (Interim, 2001), Linda Ann Montecalvo (2001-2006), Karen Kenna (2006-2019), Felicia S. Drake (2019-Present).