Growth throughout the decades facilitates change, same sense of community remains

Elizabeth Lee, Managing Editor

Ever since Chantilly High School was established in 1972 as a temporary building, the school has faced a plethora of changes in retrospect to both the physical layout of the school as well as the educational principles. Most recently, the school’s pyramid was selected to pilot the FCPSOn to provide technology and 21st century learning opportunities to all students.

“One of the things that I have noticed [about FCPSOn] is that people are willing to explore Project-Based Learning, which I think is really good,” English department chair Mary Kay Downes, who has been teaching at the school since 1987, said. “But I don’t think it is as new as some people might say [it is,] because I have been teaching for so long that I can say with certainty that what goes around comes around.”

Out of all the faculty at the school, Downes is the third longest serving staff member, following physics teacher George Dewey as well as psychology and government teacher Kenneth Prowell, both faculty members who have been teaching at the school since the 1980s. These individuals have had the privilege to observe the many types of changes occurring throughout the decades.

Being part of the community for such an extended period of time has allowed Downes to experience some major renovations over the years.

“The renovations, as best as I recall, were between 1992 and 1994,” Downes said. “Fortunately, they took the English department, and we were able to move into our new quarters first, which was great. They did it very efficiently, and the renovation took much less time than some of the other renovations that were held much more recently.”

Compared to some of his colleagues, mathematics teacher John King’s time at Chantilly may seem short at a mere 25 years. However, he still has had the opportunity to see the school transform from an open-concept learning environment to the building we see today.

“[In the beginning], we didn’t have walls, although there were dividers and partitions that separated the classrooms. You could walk by the hallways and look into different classrooms,” King said. “Chantilly is pretty communal as it is, but openness made for much more comradery with the staff, plus the rooms were not just all math [in one area]. There could be an English room next door and social studies across the hall.”

Originally, the school was constructed to relieve overcrowded high schools around the county as the population rapidly grew and expanded west. Home to over 2,700 students, according to the 2015-16 statistics report of High School Membership by Ethnicity, Race and Gender provided by FCPS, Chantilly is now the highest populated stand-alone high school in the county.

In order to accommodate the continuously growing population, which can be accredited to the positive reputation of the school and its programs, such as the Governor’s STEM Academy and FCPSOn, Chantilly’s campus includes various trailers around the building and a 25-classroom modular that hosts many staff members and students. In addition, the school has experienced other significant changes in the last decade.

“Demographically, we have changed a lot. About 12 to 14 years ago, our demographics were very different. We were 82 percent white, and our next highest population was black and then Hispanic,” Principal Teresa Johnson said. “Today, we are only about 42 percent white and our next highest population is 38 percent [of students] who identify as asian. Another 16 percent identify as hispanic.”

Overall, Chantilly’s sense of community and kindness has made generations of students, families and staff members feel welcome and at home at 4201 Stringfellow Road.

“I think Chantilly is a great place, and it is better than most [schools],” King said. “The environment, at least around the faculty, seems to have an overall kinship regardless [of subject] about the students and community.”