News & Politics

Julianne Moore Wants to Rename a Fairfax High School

And 9 other interesting things you should know about Washington schools.

J.E.B. Stuart High School alum Julianne Moore started a petition to rename the school. Photo courtesy of Flickr user nicolas genin.

1. The First To Integrate

On February 2, 1959, four African-American seventh-graders were escorted into Arlington’s Stratford Junior High School by at least 85 riot-gear-clad police officers, overcoming “massive resistance” laws that moved to shut down any desegregated Virginia school. The school became H-B Woodlawn High in 1978 but was awarded historic designation this year.

2. “Shameful Shaw”

The neighborhood now synonymous with trendy bars got its moniker from Shaw Junior High, which once sat on Rhode Island Avenue. “A government certified fire trap,” according to the Washington Post, it was dubbed Shameful Shaw due to its crumbling infrastructure and became a symbol of the city’s neglect of its black citizens. The school itself was named after Commander Robert Shaw of the famed 54th Massachusetts Regiment.

Commander Robert Shaw. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Commander Robert Shaw. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

3. Professor Biden

Once a high-school and community-college English teacher back in Delaware, Jill Biden has taught at Northern Virginia Community College since her husband became Veep. Her Second Lady status doesn’t keep students from complaining on that she gives too much homework.

4. Good Footing

The first public school for black students when it opened in 1870, Dunbar High—in an imposing new building off New York Avenue, Northwest—has history in its floors: Students walk to class over plaques honoring alums such as Edward Brooke, the first black US senator, and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. Blank plaques suggest the school isn’t done yet.

5. A New Dei

The sons of former senator Rick Santorum, onetime FBI director Louis Freeh, and ex–Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel all attended the Heights School in Potomac. Affiliated with the Opus Dei society—villains in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code—the Heights is fast becoming a conservative rival to Gonzaga, DC’s Jesuit boys’ school.

6. Crown-Jewel School

Airy, light-filled classrooms, a great hall, and grades divided by age all made DC’s Franklin School a cutting-edge educational facility when it opened in 1869, and made its architect, Adolf Cluss, famous. For years a homeless shelter, the building has been vacant since 2008, despite attempts to revive it as a museum.

Franklin School in DC. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith.
Franklin School in DC. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith.

7. Moon’s School

In addition to its ownership of the Washington Times, Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church has another link to America’s capital. New Hope Academy, a private school in Hyattsville, opened in 1990 after Moon donated $250,000 for purchase of a school building. While officials claim that no religious doctrines are taught, a portrait of Moon and his wife once hung on the walls.

8. Space-Pioneer Neighbor

Schools are often named after local heros, but the honoree for Herndon’s Crossfield Elementary lived right across the street. Famed for flying at twice the speed of sound, test pilot Albert Scott Crossfield retired to a house near Fox Mill Road, where the elementary school went up in 1988. Crossfield died in a plane crash in 2006.

9. Confederate Ed

Five years after the Supreme Court barred school segregation in 1954, Fairfax County pointedly named its Falls Church high school after rebel general J.E.B. Stuart. Now Stuart alum Julianne Moore has started a petition to rename it Thurgood Marshall. One problem: Falls Church’s other high school, George C. Marshall, is already known as “Marshall.”

10. Educating Girls

The Greek Revival ruins of Patapsco Female Institute in Ellicott City are all that remains of one of the country’s earliest girls’ finishing schools, opened in 1837. Closed in 1891, it was a hotel and a wartime hospital before being abandoned for decades. In 1995, Howard County converted it to a park and outdoor theater.