Walt Whitman Middle School opened on September 5, 1961. In 1958, the Fairfax County School Board voted to reorganize the public school system and establish the county’s first intermediate schools. Traditionally, students in grades 1-7 attended elementary schools, and students in grades 8-12 attended high schools. Intermediate schools were created to ease the transition from elementary school to high school, and provide students with a specialized program of study geared to the specific needs of their age group. A pilot program began in the fall of 1958 and proved so successful that Fairfax County Public Schools administrators embarked on an ambitious plan to open eight more intermediate schools during the 1960-61 school year. Early in the intermediate school planning process, it was decided that each school would be named for a famous author or poet. Our school was officially named Walt Whitman Intermediate School by the School Board in May 1959. Whitman was one of two intermediate schools opened during the 1961-62 school year, making our school one of the original 11 intermediate schools opened by Fairfax County Public Schools. The first Whitman Intermediate School building was constructed at a cost of $934,765. It had 45 classrooms and a total capacity of approximately 1,000 students.
The building pictured above is the original Walt Whitman Intermediate School that opened in 1961. If you don't recognize the building, that is because today it houses Mount Vernon High School. In the early 1970s, Fairfax County Public Schools administrators decided that the two schools should trade campuses because the Whitman Intermediate School site on Old Mount Vernon Road offered more land for future growth of the high school. From 1973 to 1985, Whitman Intermediate School operated out of what is today known as the Old Mount Vernon High School on Route 1. The building originally opened to students in January 1940.
The current Walt Whitman Middle School building, our third, originally opened in October 1965 as Stephen Foster Intermediate School. Throughout the 1970s, the school-age population in eastern Fairfax County steadily declined. School enrollment fell to such a degree that between 1980 and 1985, three intermediate schools, two high schools, and 15 elementary schools were closed by the Fairfax County School Board. At the start of the 1985-86 school year, Foster Intermediate School ceased to exist and the building was renamed Walt Whitman Intermediate School. Today we are known as Walt Whitman Middle School because in the 1990s all intermediate schools in Fairfax County were renamed as middle schools.
What tragic event brought Walt Whitman to Washington, D.C. during the American Civil War?