The playground still is not finished, but for 660 children in the Burke area, cutting the green and white ribbons at White Oaks Elementary School last week meant an end to being scattered among three schools for four months.
For their parents, as White Oaks PTA president Michael Thompson said at the beginning of the dedication ceremony, it meant proof that "the concept of a neighborhood school certainly does live here in America."
However, even as Fairfax County officials and local dignitaries congratulated each other, school officials readied plans for a 10-classroom addition to the month-old-school.
White Oak is already over capacity, and by next year, when student-teacher ratios are supposed to go down to 25 to one, the school is expected to have about 160 students more than allowed.
The new classrooms will absorb the 160 students and allow room for future growth. Burke is one of Fairfax County's most rapidly growing areas.
The school's capacity was the result of a compromise between parents in the area, who worked for passage of the 1978 bond referendum that authorized the nearly $2.5 million needed to build White Oaks, and the school board, which reasoned at the time that a 990-student school was not needed because nearby Terrace Center School is to open next September.
The compromise was to build a school with "core" facilities, such as gymnasium, cafeteria and library, a school big enough to handle 990 students but with classrooms for only 660.
The 10-classroom "pod," which in the jargon of the new, open-classroom schools is like a rounded wing, will cost about $650,000 to build, according to design and construction office director Alton Hlavin.
"It would definitely have been cheaper to build it all at once," Hlavin said, but added he could not estimate how much extra it will cost to do it this way.
Springfield school board member Toni Carney, who was not on the board when the decision to build the school was made, said at the ceremony that she hoped the board would profit from the miscalculation "and not do this again."
Peggy Hamaker, a school bus driver and mother who was active in the drive to get the school built, said community organizers were convinced three years ago that the school would need a 900-plus capacity.
However, she said, they were happy just to win approval for White Oaks, especially after seeing what happened to a similar request in the Lake Braddock area.
When the Lake Braddock school was first requested, she said, "They were told they didn't have the tax base for it. But by the time they got their tax base, they were mature (in population age) and didn't need the school anymore. We were determined not to let that happen here."