School History

Laurel Ridge Elementary School opened on September 8, 1970. There were only about 550 students enrolled at Laurel Ridge during our first year because Commonwealth Boulevard and much of the surrounding neighborhood were still under construction. However, within a few short years, student enrollment ballooned to more than 1,100. Our first school motto was “Kindness is Spoken Here.”

Color photograph of Laurel Ridge Elementary School during construction. Some cinderblock walls and steel framing are in place. Construction supplies and equipment are spread throughout the site.
Lauren Ridge Elementary School, During Construction, c.1969

Branches of Learning

Laurel Ridge Elementary School was originally designed as an “open-school.” The open-school educational philosophy was very popular among educators in the 1960s and 1970s, resulting in changes to teaching methods and the physical layout of school buildings. Laurel Ridge was originally divided into six pods or mini-schools linked together at the center of the building by the library. Students of different grades and age levels were clustered together in what our first principal, Robert Marshall, called "branches.” In each branch all the children learned and worked together, with the older children helping the younger children. In order to facilitate better collaboration among the branch teachers, additional planning time was needed. Principal Marshall requested then Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) Superintendent S. John Davis to provide teachers with a full-day off each week to be used for planning purposes. The Fairfax County School Board approved a modified version of this plan, and instituted early release Mondays in all FCPS elementary schools. Early release Mondays were a mainstay of FCPS until 2014 when the practice ended.

Color photograph of the main entrance of Laurel Ridge Elementary School taken in the early-to-mid 1970s. The shrubs and trees planted in front of the building have grown.
Laurel Ridge Elementary School, c.1973


In March 1976, Laurel Ridge was featured in an article in Instructor Journal, a magazine for educators.

Laurel Ridge Elementary School is large, with 1,170 students and 88 staff and faculty members. It also has a transient population. Many of the children come from military families and the annual turnover rate fluctuates at around 30 percent. Laurel Ridge is organized into mini-schools which act as neighborhoods within the school community. There are six autonomous mini-schools, named Team L, A, U, R, E, and L. Each is staffed by a team of four to seven teachers for 125 to 210 children who range from four-and-a-half to twelve years of age. They live together in their various neighborhoods. A child is assigned to a multiage base area—a group including a teacher and children of at least a three-year age span. Students begin and end the day in their base area. Children remain within the team for as long as they are at Laurel Ridge. Since there are no grade level designations within the teams, children progress continuously from day to day and year to year. Within each neighborhood are open space classrooms with one self-contained class to meet the needs of those children who have difficulty functioning in an open environment."

A Look at Laurel Ridge

In 1988, Laurel Ridge Elementary School was featured on FCPS Red Apple 21’s cable television program Profile.


The first addition to Laurel Ridge Elementary School was constructed in 1993. In 2004, Laurel Ridge underwent a major renovation. The open-school pods, having fallen out of favor among educators, were enclosed to make individual classrooms. During the 2010-11 school year, as our school celebrated its 40th anniversary, local media reported on the outstanding quality of the programs offered to our students, some of which included: English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), School Age Child Care (SACC), full-day kindergarten, Spanish immersion, Challenge 24 math, Geography Bee, Lightning Lions jump rope team, Chess Club, and Girls on the Run.

Aerial photograph of Laurel Ridge Elementary School, taken in October 2004. The photograph, taken from the front of the building, shows thirteen mobile classrooms situated behind the school on the playing field. Construction equipment is visible on the far right rear of the building where work is still underway.
Laurel Ridge Elementary School, October 31, 2004

Our Principals

1970 – 1978: Robert B. "Bob" Marshall
1978 – 1983: Edward A. Barker, Jr.
1983 – 1989: E. Louise Gill
1989 – 2004: Patricia A. Heiselberg
2004 – 2008: Linda Domina
2008 – 2011: Larry Burke
2011 – 2013: Nick Rousos
2013 – 2014: Laura Adams (Interim)
2014 – Present: Tonya Cox Wassenberg

Centennial Elementary

Did you know that during construction our school was referred to as the King's Park West Elementary School? On February 12, 1970, the Fairfax County School Board officially named our building Laurel Ridge Elementary School. Laurel Ridge was the preferred name put forward by the school community and was chosen in reference to the laurel bushes that grew on and around the school site. The community’s second choice for a name was Centennial Elementary School because in 1970 Fairfax County Public Schools celebrated its 100th anniversary.

What's in a Name?

Learn about the origin of our school’s name.