For one day this year, students at Chevy Chase Elementary School took style cues from the predecessors, accessorizing their outfits with newsboy caps and suffragette sashes.
They sat cross-legged outside their century-old school, wore their sternest expressions and posed for a photo that would look at home in a historical society archives.
For the entire school year, Chevy Chase students, teachers and administrators have been working their way through history in honor of their school’s 100th anniversary. The celebration will culminate this weekend with a festival expected to draw hundreds of current and former students who have walked the school hallways.
Principal Jody Smith said while the lesson plans and classroom technology have changed over the decades, there are a couple of through-lines for the school.
“The staff has always been amazing, and it’s always been about the students,” she said.
The festival – or “Cheetahfest” in honor of the school’s mascot – will run from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, said Holly Kammerer, a parent who’s helping organize the 100-year celebration. The event will feature a moon bounce, food trucks, tours of the school and booths with information about the past 10 decades.
Chevy Chase parents began advocating for local education in the late 1800s, and the first local school opened in 1898 in a two-room building on Bradley Lane, according to the Town of Chevy Chase. That school closed after a few years because of low enrollment, but Chevy Chase students finally got a permanent building in 1917 following a $20,000 construction project. Smith said she believes Chevy Chase Elementary, which now serves more than 550 students in grades three through six, is one of the oldest in the Montgomery County Public Schools system.
She said the school has hosted “decade days” over the past year so that kids can learn about each time period their school has experienced – they started with the 1910s and worked their way forward to today. They’ve also invited former students and the daughter of the school’s first African-American teacher to share oral histories and checked out historical artifacts, such as the original school key.
Smith said they’ve applauded their school’s accomplishments, but haven’t shied away from addressing topics like racial segregation, which MCPS practiced into the 1950s.
Along the way, students have learned how to start telling their own stories, and each class has helped pack a time capsule for Chevy Chase Elementary attendees to crack open 100 years in the future.
“It’s been really interesting to see the kids just throughout the year as they learned about the different decades and the history behind the school,” Kammerer said. “It’s made them really excited for their own futures.”
Students and staff at Chevy Chase Elementary School take a trip back to 1917, the year their school opened. Photos via Chevy Chase Elementary School.