History of Charles Barrett

Teacher and student working in clas
  • The original Barrett School was built in 1943, when Shirley Highway (now 395) was bulldozed through forest land to link the brand new Pentagon building with Fort Belvoir. The building, a "temporary" prefab constructed by the Federal Works Agency, consisted of six classrooms and a kitchen. It was designed to serve children living in Parkfairfax, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company's new townhouse development built to relieve the wartime housing shortage in Washington.

    School opened on October 25, 1943, with desks and chairs borrowed from other schools. There were forty children and four teachers on staff. The principal was Miss Mary Boylan who continued in that role for the next twenty-five years. Volunteer mothers prepared and served lunch in the Barrett "soup kitchen."

    Three weeks after classes began the Alexandria School Board voted unanimously to name the school after Major General Charles Dodson Barrett of the United States Marine Corps, an Alexandrian who was killed in the South Pacific on October 8, 1943.

    The original red brick building was constructed in 1949, at a cost of approximately $400,000. It consisted of 12 classrooms, a library, a cafeteria, an auditorium, a shop, a home economics department, a music room, an office and a teacher's lounge. Occupancy was taken on February 1, 1950. In March, 1950, General Barrett's son, Marine Major Charles D. Barrett, presented his father's personal flag to the school at the official dedication ceremony. The flag, two large stars centered in a field of red, holds a place of honor in the school.

    In the summer of 1968, the classrooms in the red brick building were renovated to make the rooms more comfortable, usable, and attractive. The library was enlarged by removing a wall between the library and a classroom. It was redecorated and new furniture replaced the old. Seventh graders were moved to the middle schools and the shop and home economics area were remodeled for classroom use. Barrett parents planned and painted graphic designs in the halls, lobby, and cafeteria.

    A new kindergarten wing was added to the main building in the summer of 1971. This eliminated the need for the original schoolhouse which was demolished on November 5, 1971. The new wing, a pod design, was awarded the Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade Award for Excellence in Architecture. When the new addition was dedicated on October 27, 1971, Mr. Randall R. Vosbeck, its architect, presented the key to the building to Mrs. Virginia T. Funkhouser, Barrett's then principal.

    A new parking lot and multi-purpose room consisting of a gymnasium, two game rooms with a kitchenette, and restrooms were completed during the 1976-77 school year. Physical education classes could now be conducted in the gym for Barrett students during the day. An afternoon/evening program sponsored by the Recreation Department for the Barrett community was also initiated. Following the completion of the multi-purpose room, the school yard was landscaped.

    Through the combined efforts of the Barrett PTA and the Alexandria School System, the playground was updated with new equipment in the fall of 1994. Major renovations conducted in the summer of 1995 included the installation of new windows, auditorium seating and carpeting; office and classroom remodeling; and interior painting. In the summer of 1996, the building was wired to 5 support state of the art technology. All classrooms were connected to a school wide network, and all classrooms had access to the Internet. In addition, classrooms were equipped with dual platform computers, printers, laptop computers, televisions, and telephones.

    In 1997, the school was enhanced by the addition of a new library media center. In addition to an extensive collection of quality children’s fiction and non-fiction books, a video production room, a teacher resource room, a primary storytelling area, and a multi-purpose reference room. The automated card catalogue enables students and teachers to access research information from their classrooms.

    In 2000, the grounds of Barrett were developed into a series of beautiful gardens. These gardens were designed to be laboratories where the students can learn about plants, animals, birds, and the connectedness of living things. Barrett continues to house gardens (designed by a kindergarten teacher and maintained with student help), a butterfly garden and a hummingbird garden. During the summer of 2002, the PTA Beautification Committee, with the assistance of ACPS Facilities Department, took the garden up a notch by building two raised beds. Charles Barrett is currently listed as a Schoolyard Habitat, certified in the National Wildlife Federation’s worldwide network of habitat-based learning sites. Please take the time to stroll through these lovely living laboratories.

    In Spring 2008, Charles Barrett was awarded the Green Flag Award for its initiatives in recycling and composting. Through these combined efforts of our PTA and facilities department our teachers lounge received a make-over during the summer of 2008. In 2012 the school was awarded the Energy Star Award by the Department of Energy.

    In Summer 2011, a new kindergarten classroom and four new first grade classrooms were added onto the facility, in addition to a new kindergarten walkway. Renovations to the cafeteria, kitchen and nurses office were also completed that year.

    The PTA continues to provide materials and equipment through fundraising efforts and donations, including the 2013 completion of a school wide SmartBoard initiative. SmartBoards can now be found in every homeroom in our building.

    In Summer 2015, an additional four classrooms were added onto the school for our third grade students. Staff bathrooms and additional office space were also included in this renovation, which also addressed fire alarm system upgrades and air quality concerns.

    Today, Charles Barrett School is home to approximately 500 children and 78 staff members. We are proud of our school's history and the reputation for excellence that it has established in the city of Alexandria. We look forward to continuing these traditions as we prepare our students for the challenges of the future.