Ever-changing student population spurs building changes

October 27, 2022

Walking down the halls, painted murals and club fliers decorate the walls separating each classroom. Although the white walls may seem intentional, they were never planned to be there in the first place.

According to Education Next, the open classroom concept was introduced and popularized throughout the 1970s as a more beneficial way to have students interact with one another. Instead of the walls students see in the building today, hallways were blocked off by the subschool offices and large partitions. Desks fit the students into their “classrooms.”

“It was all partitioned off and we could move them around as we wanted classrooms to change,” cosmetology teacher Lisa Climo said. “As long as teachers were just talking at a regular pace, you could know people were there, but that didn’t really bother you because the partitions had material that absorbed sound; the minute anyone in class started cheering, it went all the way around.”

As a graduate of CHS class of ‘78, Climo has seen the school from its very beginnings to now. According to Climo, the lack of walls allowed more space for multiple lecture halls where teachers took to strategies of engaging students by doing different visualization exercises.

When the school opened in 1973, subschools one, two, three and four were divided by grade instead of last name and known as blue, red, orange and yellow. Subschool Five was introduced later and started out as a comprehensive student service office before expanding to include special education services.

CHS “hallways” in 1979 before full walls were installed were sectioned off by adjustable partitions. (Photo from the 1979 edition of Odyssey)

“It was the same staircases coming up and down and the subschool offices,” Climo said. “They had lecture halls upstairs and I remember they had steps for seating. The steps were wide, and you could lay down on them and listen to your lecture while hanging out.”

According to English Teacher Michael Murphy, who graduated from CHS in 1988 and started teaching in ‘92, changes in the building began in the ’80s. Per the November 1979 issue of The Purple Tide, the school began the process of constructing walls after students’ complaints of distractions from other classrooms.

One of the newer and most noticeable changes to the school building is the addition of the trailers or modulars. According to Fairfax County Public Schools, CHS has a student population of over 2,900 with about 700 individual students in each grade level. In order to accommodate the growing number of students in the school, trailers and modulars—shortened to mods by students and staff—were built outside.

“My graduating class was the biggest class up till that point, like we had 660,” Murphy said. “I know the recent classes are a little over 700, so not much difference really. So [the school] has been this big that long. I had health in a trailer out there. I know kids complain that they have to go all the way to the mod but at least they get to go outside for a minute and get a breath of fresh air and walk around someplace.”

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