School History

Orange Hunt Elementary School has been the centerpiece of our community since its opening on September 30, 1974. The students who walked into the building that day had been going to Burke, Hunt Valley, and Keene Mill elementary schools.

Color photograph taken on September 30, 1974. Students are walking along the sidewalk from the parking lot toward the main entrance. They are carrying backpacks and are wearing earth-toned sweaters or light jackets. The trees in the distance are still green.
The first day of school at the brand new Orange Hunt Elementary School.

The students walked into a school that had a new and experimental design: an “open classroom” school with no interior walls. It was painted bright colors on the inside of the four exterior walls and you could see from the front door to the back wall.

Color photograph of one of the open classrooms at Orange Hunt Elementary School. Individual desks have been clustered together in several groupings. The students in the foreground are working on one lesson, and in the distance a separate group of students are working on a different lesson.
The open school environment at Orange Hunt allows flexibility to take care of individual student learning problems. It is a false assumption that an open school means chaos. Openness at this school is highly structured. Open schools like this are not just okay for some kids, they're okay for all kids. Students here have many options open, but they never have the option not to work.
~ Principal Ronald E. West
Black and white photograph of several groups of teachers working together in the library at Lake Braddock Secondary School. In the foreground, a group of five teachers are seated close to one another and appear to be engaged in a discussion of some sort. The picture appeared in the November 1974 FCPS Bulletin publication.
During the summer of 1974, while Orange Hunt Elementary School was still under construction, teachers gathered at Lake Braddock Secondary School for intensive training in the new, team-teaching style in use at “open classroom schools” like Orange Hunt. 

According to one of Orange Hunt's first teachers, Principal Ronald West put together a group of the best and the brightest teachers he could find. Four of them were at our school for over 25 years, a thread to the beginning of our school for those who followed. That thread has continued in many important ways in our community. The sense of family and concern for the world around us is a part of that thread. Those rooms without walls created a sense of community and collaboration between the teachers and the students. Orange Hunt is not about the building, but about the people who have spent eight hours or more a day in the building learning, teaching, and caring for themselves and others.

Black and white photograph from Orange Hunt's first yearbook showing the front of the building. The school grounds have been sodded, but no other plants are visible. A Volkswagen Beetle is parked in front of the school.
Orange Hunt Elementary School, 1975. Note the lack of trees and shrubs outside our building. Beginning in 1975, the Village Green Garden Club of West Springfield held fundraising sales, the proceeds of which were used to purchase plants for our school grounds.

Bursting at the Seams

Orange Hunt was originally built for a capacity of 660 students, but shortly after the building opened it was over capacity. A 300-student-capacity addition was built in 1976, but by 1978 Orange Hunt was again over capacity with 1,015 students. Enrollment fluctuated slightly after the opening of White Oaks Elementary School in 1979, but Orange Hunt continued to operate near capacity well into the 1980s.

A group of 12 students of multiple ages, boys and girls, are standing next to the brick wall on the outside of our building. Some appear to be posing for another camera and others are engaged in conversation.
Orange Hunt Students, mid-1980s.  

In 1983, Orange Hunt’s parents and community members joined together to build the most amazing playground children had ever seen. It was created by the community with many recycled parts and donations. Unfortunately time and Mother Nature worked against the wooden playground structures and it was replaced in 1995. Our playground has been a gathering place for the children of the community for a long time and it was updated again in 2013. In July 2013, the Fairfax County School Board officially named our new playground “The Dr. Judy Ryan Playground” in honor of Orange Hunt’s sixth principal.

Color photograph of the playground that was built in 1983. It is a wooden structure with slides, ramps, turrets, and climbing structures.
The 1983 Playground

Kindness Grows Where Love Shows

In keeping with our school motto, our love has shown over the years in many ways. We adopted less fortunate schools and donated food, gifts, and clothing once a year. This program was run by the S.C.A. and the Guidance department. We have collected mittens, hats, jackets, eyeglasses, food, and money for those in need.

Color photograph of two students who are assisting with loading boxes into the back of a U-haul-style truck as part of a hurricane relief effort. Some of the boxes contain food, clothing, household supplies, and cleaning products.
Orange Hunt has also sent supplies to people who have suffered in hurricanes and other disasters.

Our students have always watched out for each other as well; sometimes as reading buddies between upper and lower grades, sometimes as little sisters and brothers with an upper grade friend, and sometimes as real siblings waving in the halls.

Black and white photograph of a large group of students posing for the camera. From the look of their clothing, the picture was likely taken during the late 1970s or early 1980s. 23 students are pictured, 10 of whom are girls. All the children are hugging and smiling, with their arms around one another. The photograph was taken in a classroom and there are handwritten lesson notes and a calendar on the wall behind them.

A Warm Welcome

The Orange Hunt community grew when Sangster Elementary School opened in 1988. The new school boundaries brought many students from Hunt Valley Elementary School to Orange Hunt. Then principal, Pam Readyhough, threw a picnic in the spring of 1988 for the new students to welcome them to the school before they would arrive in the fall. The Spring Fling became a tradition for many years and has since morphed into the May Fest.

Color photograph of a large group of students and teachers outside Orange Hunt Elementary School on the playground field. The children hold colorful balloons that have small paper notes affixed to them by string. The children are waiting for the signal to release the balloons.
During the first Spring Fling in 1988, future and current Orange Hunt students affixed their wishes for the coming school year to balloons and released them together.

The new students joined the community wondering about the design of the school, which by now had some moveable walls and classrooms defined by wardrobes and bookcases. The spaces were still very open and accessible to each other, which continued to have positive effects, though it took some getting used to.

Color photograph of one of the open classrooms at Orange Hunt Elementary School. Individual desks have been clustered together in several, mostly linear, groupings of three or four children. The students in the foreground are working on one lesson, and in the distance a separate group of students can be seen working on a different lesson with another teacher.
The open environment created an atmosphere of shared and team teaching that benefitted all students. Teachers arrived thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?” and learned that being able to hear each other’s lessons made them better teachers.

German Immersion

The next big change to Orange Hunt was the introduction of the German Immersion program in 1994. Then principal, Janet Trout Barbee, worked to integrate the new program into our school, to the benefit of the entire school community. German Immersion gave us a new identity as a language magnet school. It broadened our population because we accepted students from all over Fairfax County. One outcome was a very large Kiss-and-Ride at the beginning and end of every day. Our first German instructor was Frau Kessler. In May 1998, the American Association for the Teachers of German named Orange Hunt a "Center of Excellence." This honor coincided with a visit to Frau Kessler’s classroom by Juergen Chrobog, the German ambassador to the United States.

Color photograph taken in the library at Orange Hunt Elementary showing three German-language books. In the distance the German Books section of the library can be seen. The shelves hold hundreds of books.
During his visit, Ambassador Chrobog presented our school with a gift of more than 100 German books and tapes.
Some of you may know that President Clinton visited Germany recently. He spoke a few words of German, but nobody really understood him. People will understand you. I'm very proud and grateful that you have taken this initiative. Your German is so good -- better than my English!
~Ambassador Juergen Chrobog to Orange Hunt students


In 1995, our school had a total of 38 computers: 27 Apple 2Gs in the library and 11 in other locations in the building. Today, we have over 400 computers in our building with wireless network connections and printers. In addition, we have added technologies like SmartBoards that create a more interactive learning environment. Our students have the ability to use technology every day, keeping up with the world around them.

Color photograph of a student using a small personal computer. The keyboard is much thicker than keyboards today and has a cartridge slot at the top. The monitor is a small CRT screen. The student is working at a small desk behind several movable classroom storage units that also served as classroom partitions.
This photograph was taken in 1985. Students of the 1980s were among the first to use computers at Orange Hunt.


In 2001, construction began on an extensive building-wide renovation and renewal of our school.

Collage of two color photographs showing progress on the renovation and addition to Orange Hunt Elementary School. On the left, a backhoe can be seen tearing down the earlier addition to our building. On the right, a new cinderblock foundation can be seen where the old addition had been located. The wall outlines are in place.
Renovation sounds like it should be a tough time and there may have been some difficulties, but mostly it was treated as a time of change and adventure. Writing stories about the noises on the roof, watching our “relocatable” addition built in 1976 being torn down, moving between classrooms and out into the “cottages” in the parking lot gave students from that time many interesting memories.
Collage of two color photographs showing progress on the renovation and addition to Orange Hunt Elementary School. On the left, the new addition walls are complete and the building is under roof. A worker, standing on scaffolding, is placing a brick veneer on the building. On the right, the new courtyard created during the project is visible. A worker is carrying a bucket of cement toward scaffolding set up along the wall where a brick veneer is being placed. The ground is bare earth. Construction supplies are stacked on the left, and construction debris is strewn about the ground near the scaffolding.
Many who were at Orange Hunt before the renovation miss the sense of community that open classrooms created. One of our current teachers wasn’t sure she would be able to teach in such an open environment and then was sad when the walls were put up during renovation because you gained quiet, but you lost the easy collaboration of working side-by-side with another teacher. 

In 2003, after the renovation was complete, we held a big party and rededicated the school.

Color photograph taken during the re-dedication ceremony. The photographer is standing near the front doors of our school looking out toward the bus loop. Principal Barbee can be seen standing at a podium addressing the entire student body and a large group of parents and community members who are gathered outside in front of the building to watch the ribbon cutting ceremony.

The Orange Hunt Family

The true history of Orange Hunt is less about the building and more about the people. The Spring Fling / May Fest, the Fall Fest, P. E. Night, Math Night, and Art and Literacy nights have a long history in our school. Newer traditions such as the Veterans Day observance, begun under Principal Ryan, connect our students with the community and honor the veterans in our midst. Our students have learned to become leaders through S.C.A, safety patrols, peer mediators, and the news team.

Collage of two photographs of Orange Hunt students. On the left is a black and white photograph of four S.C.A. officers. There is a wooden fence behind them. One boy is seated on the fence railing, a girl to his left leans against it, and two students are kneeling on the ground in front of them. The students in front are holding a S.C.A. banner. Behind the banner is a picture of our owl mascot. The girl on the left is wearing a t-shirt with text that reads: 1978 All Stars. In the color photograph on the right, a group of 12 students comprising the TV news crew and on-camera anchors are posed around the news desk. The picture was taken in the early 2000s and a camera can be seen in the left foreground of the image. Two of the children are holding stuffed toy owls.
From 1974 to the present, Orange Hunt students have learned to accept responsibility for themselves, each other, their community, and the planet.

Our students are aware of the world around them and work to make that world a better place. The lunch tray recycling campaign in our cafeteria was initiated by second graders. The compost heap in the butterfly garden helps recycle organic, snack waste.

Photograph of the butterfly garden at Orange Hunt Elementary School. The garden plants are lush and green and many different types of flowers are visible. A hand-painted sign greets visitors to the garden. It has the words Butterfly Garden written on it in both English and German. A compost bin is visible in the far background.

The Orange Hunt family has remained close knit over the years and many of our children today have parents who are Orange Hunt alumni. Orange Hunt’s staff have always been committed to providing our children with the best education possible; creating students who will one day become the positive, compassionate leaders of the next generation, because kindness grows where love shows. Looking around the Orange Hunt community, it is easy to see that love.

Color photograph of students posing on the wooden playground built in 1983. It is a crisp fall day. In the distance some trees have lost their leaves and others are bright red in color.

Written by Cathy Bailey, librarian at Orange Hunt and parent of former Orange Hunt students.

Our Principals

Orange Hunt Elementary School has had eight principals since our building opened in 1974.

Yearbook portraits of principals Ronald West and John Randall. West is seated at a circular table in the library and is reading a book to a group of students. Randall is seated at his desk, looking up from paperwork.
Ronald E. West (Left, 1974-1979) and John C. Randall, Jr. (1979-1982)
Yearbook portraits of principals Earl Williams, Pam Readyhough, and Janet Trout Barbee. Williams is seated at his desk, looking up from paperwork. Readyhough is sitting on the floor, and is surrounded by a large group of children. Barbee is holding a book and is reading to a group of students.
Earl Williams (1982-1986), Margaret “Pam” Readyhough (Center, 1986-1990), and Janet Trout Barbee (Right, 1990-2004)
Yearbook portraits of principals Judy Ryan, Jason Pensler, and Karen Tuttle. Ryan is seated at a table in the library and is watching two students read a book. Pensler is standing in a classroom with two students. Tuttle's picture is a head-and-shoulders staff portrait.
Judy Ryan (2004-2011), Jason Pensler (2011-2016), and Karen Tuttle (2016-Present)

What's in a Name?

Did you know that during the planning, design, and construction process, Orange Hunt was originally named Caldwell Elementary School after the Caldwell Estates neighborhood? In March 1974, the Fairfax County School Board officially named our building Orange Hunt Elementary School. The community put forward three names for consideration by the School Board: Keene Hunt Elementary, Lakewood Hills Elementary, and Orange Hunt Elementary, of which Orange Hunt was the preferred choice. Learn about the origin of the name Orange Hunt in this video produced for FCPS cable television channel Red Apple 21.