The Montgomery County Board of Education voted unanimously this week to name one of two new elementary schools opening in Germantown this fall for Christa McAuliffe, the teacher who was killed in the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger last year.

A committee of students, parents and school officials met in April and chose the name, which was then submitted to the school board. The school board generally seeks to name elementary schools after geographic areas and is hesitant to use them to honor people.

Eugene Haines, the principal of the new S. Christa McAuliffe Elementary School, said the school will use the motto of "Touch the future," taken from McAuliffe's oft-stated motto, "I touch the future. I teach."

Mark Warner, a PTA copresident for the school that had formerly been called Gunners Lake Elementary School, said last week that he was "tickled" about the committee's choice of name and thought it was fitting. "Teaching is toward the future," he said. "Teachers are there to build our children's future."

JoAnn DeMarchi attended the April meeting with her son, Jason, a first grader. "Most of us came with a couple of names and we brainstormed," she recalled. Thirty-five to 40 names were considered and when the field was narrowed to three, McAuliffe was the first choice. Then the children were asked which of the names they liked best and five of the seven answered McAuliffe. "When the boys and girls picked {McAuliffe}, that was it," DeMarchi said.

Jan O'Brien, chairwoman of the PTA ways and means committee for the school, said in an interview last week that the name made her sad to think of McAuliffe, but she was quick to add that she didn't think the children felt that way.

The new school, which will receive students from Clopper Mill and Fox Chapel schools, is still very much a construction site with trucks, air compressors and heavy equipment filling the red clay yard. Construction crews swarm all over the building that sets on a rise at 12500 Wisteria Dr. among rolling hills and surrounded by new town houses.

The school is believed to be the first in the area named for McAuliffe, who taught in the Prince George's school system for eight years before moving to New Hampshire.

Brian J. Porter, spokesman for Prince George's County schools, said that a memorial for McAuliffe was established at Thomas Johnson Middle School where she last taught in Prince George's. School officials also established the Christa McAuliffe Outstanding Teacher Award to be presented annually beginning in January.

"People remember her in a real nice way," Porter said.