Going to school at Terraset Elementary in the late 1970s was sort of like being in the movie Star Wars.
A steel latticework topped with 13,000 square feet of solar panels covered the main courtyard of the school, at times creating eerie-looking shadows.
Spiraling concrete staircases looked out of this world.
The building itself was built into a side of a hill with the roof covered with a five foot layer of dirt, giving an appearance of being remains of a lost civilization.
“My memories of the architecture was that it was very futuristic,” says Kristina Alcorn, who attended the sixth grade at Terrset in 1979. “This wasn’t very long after Star Wars had come out… so, I’m sure some of our games running around the playground involved Princess Leia.”
Terraset Elementary School at 11411 Ridge Heights Road was completed in 1977 with the intention of thematically matching Reston’s ahead-of-its-time aesthetic.
“In a lot of ways, Terraset fits in with Reston as a whole,” says Alex Campbell, executive director of the Reston Museum. “Taking a chance, trying something new, thinking ahead.”
Terraset was specifically designed with the 1970s energy crisis in mind. It was one of the first solar energy powered schools in the country. The school was also built into the hill in hopes that the dirt covering would provide natural insulation and cut fuel costs.
The name “Terraset” actually means “set in Earth.”
Then, there was the large array of solar panels, which were paid for by a Saudi Arabian prince.
When the school got turned down for a grant by the US government, Fairfax County school system turned to Prince Fahd of Saudi Arabia. The prince provided a $650,000 grant to the school for the school’s solar and heating system.
Fahd would later become King and, in 1985, President Ronald Reagan toasted him at a state dinner for providing financial help to the Reston elementary school.
At the school’s dedication ceremony in May 1977, Fahd was joined by another Saudi prince, Prince Saud al-Faisal, in taking a tour of the school. It was acknowledged that it was odd that a prince from an oil-rich country would so publicly support an American solar-powered project.
“Why . . . would any Saudi do anything that could conceivably compete with oil?,” Saud said at the dedication, according to the Washington Post. “We are very much aware of the finite nature of many natural resources. Even though we continue to find additional oil deposits in our country, we know that there is an eventual limit to what we can produce. One of the sources of energy that we expect to utilize as our oil production declines, is solar energy.”
But the design had major flaws.
Most notably, the solar panels were constructed with Saudi Arabia’s climate in mind, which is far different from Reston’s climate.
“[The solar panels] didn’t deal very well with the change in seasons,” says Campbell. The panels kept having leaks and cracks.
Then, there were the icicles.
“There were these huge icicles that would form on them in the winter,” says Alcorn, who is also on the Reston Historic Trust and Museum’s Board of Directors. “You’d be waiting for your bus down below, watching these huge icicles, and wondering if they were going to hit you or the bus.”
In 1986, less than a decade after being completed and with maintenance becoming unmanageable, the solar panels were turned off. In 1991, the panels were taken down.
It wasn’t a complete disaster, however. The school ended up using about a quarter less energy than other comparable Fairfax County schools during the nine years the solar panels were in operation.
Today, Terraset Elementary remains the educational home to about 600 students.
While there are no longer solar panels (which makes it currently ineligible for the National Register of Historic Places), the school still very much remains buried under dirt.
While best-laid plans rarely work out, Terraset proves that it’s at least worth trying.
“It was an example of that spirit of ingenuity and hope for the future to solve problems,” says Alcorn. “And not be afraid of sometimes failing.”
Photos courtesy of Terraset Elementary
The Fairfax County Department of Transportation will hold a meeting later this month to discuss paving and restricting projects.
The meeting is set for Feb. 25 at 6:30 p.m. in the cafeteria of Terraset Elementary School (11411 Ridge Heights Road).
The meeting begins with a formal presentation at 6:45 p.m., after which the floor will open for questions, feedback, and comments.
Here’s more from FCDOT:
Overall, the paving and restriping program improves hundreds of roads in Fairfax County each year through maintenance and repaving. At the same time, the state and county agencies coordinate restriping efforts to address safety issues for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians through the creation of bike lanes, parking lanes, crosswalks and more.
Comments can also be submitted online for those unable to attend the meetings.
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Several Reston schools will participate in the annual walk-to-school day tomorrow.
Kids across the country are encouraged to walk or bike to school on Wednesday, Oct. 2, in order to limit their carbon footprint, live healthier lives and learn safety procedures, according to the National Center for Safe Routes to School website.
“When families decide to lace up their sneakers or strap on their bike helmets to get to school instead of riding in a car, they help reduce the amount of air pollutants emitted by automobiles,” the center said, adding that the program began in 1997 and now has participants from all 50 states and more than 40 countries.
So far, six schools around the Reston area are signed up to participate and are listed below.
- Aldrin Elementary
- Dogwood Elementary
- Forest Edge Elementary
- Hunters Woods Elementary
- Sunrise Valley Elementary
- Terraset Elementary
For parents or guardians concerned about safety, the website says parents can accompany their children to school or see if there are any “walking school-buses” organized by fellow parents.
Contact phone numbers for adults leading walks to specific schools can be found online.
Bike to School Day returns to Fairfax County Public Schools tomorrow (Wednesday). The annual event aims to promote physical activity and put a dent into traffic congestion and pollution near schools.
As students bike or walk to school, parents are encouraged to accompany their kids to school and organize bike trains or walking groups.
The event is part of a series of events this month, which is National Bike Month. Bike to Work Day is set for May 17. FCPS provides guidance on the safest routes to and from schools in the county.
Reston schools participating in Bike to School Day include:
- Aldrin Elementary School
- Lake Anne Elementary School
- Sunrise Valley Elementary School
- Terraset Elementary School
For more information, visit the county’s website.
Photo courtesy of Steve Gurney
Diners at Not Your Average Joe’s on select days in March can help raise money for a nonprofit that combats student hunger.
On the four Tuesdays in March, the restaurant (1845 Fountain Drive) will donate 15 percent of bills for diners who ask to have their meals support Helping Hungry Kids.
The nonprofit gives food packages to more than 400 elementary school students in Northern Virginia who don’t have enough food on the weekends.
Most of the 12 elementary schools that receive the packs are ones in Reston and Herndon, which include:
- Forest Edge
- Lake Anne
- Hunters Woods
Each pack, which contains non-perishable food for two breakfasts, two dinners and several snacks, costs about $6, according to the nonprofit’s website.
Basic knitting — Want to learn how to knit? The Reston Regional Library will show you “the only two stitches you need to knit anything you want” from 7-8 p.m. tonight. [Fairfax County]
Two musical worlds collide — Koto player Yumi Kurosawa will perform with tabla player Anubrata Chatterjee, bridging the cultures of Japan and India. The performance starts at 8 p.m. at CenterStage. Tickets cost $15 for Restonians. [Reston Community Center]
Movie theatre chain may come to Reston — “Upscale movie theater chain Cinépolis is close to a deal to open an eight-screen theater at Halley Rise, making the mixed-use project in Reston its first location in Northern Virginia.” [Washington Business Journal]
Students helping students — Leadership students from South Lakes High School recently organized a workshop to teach leadership skills to student ambassadors from Terraset Elementary School. [Fairfax County]
Students at Terraset Elementary School are reducing their plastic use — one straw at a time.
Since the beginning of the year, students are no longing using single-use straws in the cafeteria. Fairfax County Public Schools announced on Tuesday (Jan. 15) that the straw initiative is saving up to 400 straws per day.
An estimated 80,000 straws will be eliminated over the period of one school year.
In addition to the single-use straw ban, Terraset is now encouraging students to trade disposable water bottles in for reusable ones and to use canvas totes instead of plastic bags.
The school’s initiative and recent urging are meant to help students make environmentally-friendly choices.
“Terraset’s students are helping to save the planet and oceans by individual actions that make a big difference,” according to an FCPS press release.
Image via Google Maps
The “secure the building” status has been lifted at both schools, according to an alert issued at 4:09 p.m.
Dismissal has been delayed at Terraset Elementary School and South Lakes High School as both schools enter into “secure the building” status.
“All students and staff are safe and free to move around the building, however we cannot let people in or out at this time,” according to Terraset Elementary School’s Facebook page.
“Secure the building” alerts are issued in the following circumstances, according to the Fairfax County Public Schools’ website.
Used if the danger is outside the building, e.g., a robbery near the school.
- No students allowed outside of buildings and trailers (no P.E., recess, etc.).
- All building and trailer exterior doors are closed and locked.
- People in locked trailers remain in locked trailers.
- Staff members and students are free to move about inside buildings and trailers.
- Staff member posted at building main entrance to control visitor access, issue passes, and direct to reunification area, if necessary.
SLHS is currently in a Secure the Building status. Anyone in the building at this time is to remain here until further notice. We will send more details out as soon as they are available.
— southlakesseahawks (@southlakeshs) June 11, 2018
This story has been updated.
Terraset Elementary School‘s renovation project got a nod from northern Virginia’s real estate development association this month.
NAIOP Northern Virginia recognized the school with an award of excellence in the category for capital improvements of institutional buildings at the annual Best of NAIOP Northern Virginia awards on Nov. 16.
The school underwent a $22.5 million renovation led by Architecture, Inc., a Reston-based architecture firm. The interior and exterior of the building, which was built in 1975, was renovated to improve its HVAC system, traffic flow and ensure interiors complied with current education standards. The project also included a 34,000 square foot addition to accommodate 800 students, as well as a new entryway, pedestrian bridge and a new fine arts area, according to the firm’s website.
The program, which centered around the theme of “Focus on Excellence,” celebrates major new contributions to the area by the commercial, industrial and mixed-use sector. Overall, 33 awards were presented during the dinner in the categories of interiors, membership, marketing, transactions and buildings.
Other awards for Reston projects included the following:
- DPR Construction Mid-Atlantic Headquarters won an award of excellence in the category of interiors, tenant space ranging between 10,000 and 25,000 square feet.
- Ellucian won an award of excellence in the category of interiors, tenant space 50,00 square feet and above. Noblis headquarters also won an award of excellence in the same category.
- 19 Hundred won an award of excellent in the category of speculative office building, fifteen stories and above.
A complete list of all winners is available online.
The fire and police departments will be at the school making sure they are prepared in the event of a nightmarish scenario.
Fairfax County Fire and Rescue will be conducting an active-shooter training exercise at the school (11411 Ridge Heights Road). According to a press release, this is “primarily a fire and rescue training exercise, and they will be supported by the Fairfax County Police Department, the Town of Vienna Police Department and CIA officers.”
More than 30 fire and police vehicles are expected to be around the school and at nearby Langston Hughes Middle School for the exercise. Mannequins will be used for fire and rescue personnel to evacuate to local hospitals.
The activity at the school is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday. While the school will remain open for those who need to conduct business there, residents are asked to stay away because of the many moving vehicles that will be in the area of the campus.
Silver Line Struggling to Maintain Riders — Phase 1 of Metro’s Silver Line expansion fueled an unprecedented building boom in areas adjacent to its five stations, the Washington Post reports. However, the line has struggled to attract riders in the three years since it opened. Only the Wiehle-Metro East station is even close to projected ridership numbers. [Washington Post]
Remembering Bob Simon — In a piece for an English-language Indian newspaper, Manish Nandy remembers the stories Bob Simon told him during daily walks around Lake Anne. [The Statesman]
‘White Liberals Give Themselves Too Much Credit’ — In an opinion piece for an “intersectional feminist” magazine, a Restonian looks back on the death of Nabra Hassanen, saying that hate lives here and everywhere. [Wear Your Voice]
Work Today at Park & Ride — The access road to the Herndon-Monroe Park & Ride will have daytime lane closures for paving from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. today. Drivers should watch for flaggers, who will help direct traffic around the lane closures. [Fairfax County]
Teavana Stores Shutting Down — Starbucks announced last week will close all 379 of its Teavana stores, which it says have been underperforming. This will include the store in Reston Town Center (1826 Library St.). [CNN Money]
Get Ready for Terraset — All rising Terraset kindergarteners are invited to the Terraset playground from 5:30-6:30 p.m. on Wednesdays in August to meet classmates and play on the new Terraset playground. The August kindergarten play dates are sponsored by Terraset Elementary School and Terraset Elementary Parent Teacher Organization (PTO). Representatives from the PTO will be on hand Aug. 2 and Aug. 9 to answer parent questions. No RSVP is required. [Terraset Parent Teacher Organization]
There are some big events this weekend in Fairfax County, highlighted locally by the 27th annual Taste of Reston festival, tonight (3-11 p.m.) and Saturday (noon to 11 p.m.) at Reston Town Center.
The event is put on by the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce and features fine cuisine, family activities, live entertainment, beer and wine, cooking demonstrations from local chefs, and much more. Parking at Reston Town Center is free all day today and Saturday.
Down in Fairfax on Saturday, the county will be celebrating its 275th anniversary with a big event at the Historic County Courthouse (4000 Chain Bridge Road). Lord Nicholas Fairfax, a direct descendant of the county’s name-bearer, will be the guest of honor during the event, which will also include live entertainment, children’s activities, historical presentations and much more. The event is slated for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
And if you’re looking for something to do with dad this Father’s Day, the Fairfax County Park Authority has you covered:
- Take dad to the Antique Car Show at Sully Historic Site (3650 Historic Sully Way, Chantilly) from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday. Come see more than 400 antique and classic cars. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and $7 for children.
- Dads can tour the mill at Colvin Run (10017 Colvin Run Rd, Great Falls) for free on Sunday when they bring one of their kids. The tours will run from noon to 3:00 p.m.
- Dads and kids between ages 2 and 6 can pretend to be penguins, wolfs and beavers as they learn about dads in the wild at the Hidden Oaks Center (7701 Royce Street, Annandale). The program is from 1:30-2:30 p.m. and costs $6 per child.
That’s far from all there is to do this weekend, though. Here is just a sampling of the many events you can enjoy:
- Reston Station’s “Summerbration” series continues tonight at 7 p.m. with a free concert by The Bad Influence Band. Tomorrow night at 8:30 p.m., visit for a free outdoor showing of “Bad Moms” on the plaza. The Summerbration events outside the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station will continue through the end of August. (Note: To receive free parking for these events, parking tickets need to be validated by personnel on the plaza. Find the sign that reads “Parking Validation Here.”)
- The Reston Farmers Market will take place from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday at Lake Anne Village Center.
- Terraset Elementary School (11411 Ridge Heights Road) will have its first student-run farmers market event from 4:30-6:30 p.m. today.
- Reston Town Square Park will be hosting Nicolo the Jester as a part of their Family Fun Entertainment Series Saturday morning at 10 a.m., for a free show. It’ll be fun for all ages as Nicolo brings a blend of poetry, music, juggling, comedy, character acting and audience participation.
- This Sunday at 7 p.m., the Shenandoah Conservatory Brass Quintet will be performing at Reston Town Square Park as a part of the Sunday Art In The Park series. The group will be playing selections spanning from Handel to Fats Waller.
- Reston Museum (1639 Washington Plaza N.) is hosting is “Reston Stories” exhibit through July. The Reston Historic Trust and Museum has been collecting residents’ stories and preserving them for future generations. The collection includes stories about volunteering in Reston, the Fountain at Lake Anne Plaza, the early history of Reston and the amazing connections we make in our community.
- Work out with Athleta in the Reston Town Center Pavilion Sunday morning from 11 a.m. to noon.
- Lake Anne is hosting Sunday Yoga on the Plaza each week, at 9:30 a.m.
- Tonight from 7-8 p.m. at Walker Nature Center (11450 Glade Drive), bring the kids out for the Walking Stick Workshop. Prices are $7 for children, $9 for adults.
- Tavern64 (1800 Presidents St.) continues its series of live music tonight from 6-10 p.m. Afterward, let the live music continue at Crafthouse (1888 Explorer St.) from 10:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.
- “Urinetown: The Musical” is being performed at NextStop Theatre Company (269 Sunset Park Drive) through June 25. Performances this weekend are tonight and Saturday at 8 p.m. and a 2 p.m. matinee Sunday. General admission tickets start at $40.
- “Radcliffe Bailey: The Great Dismal Swamp” remains on display at Greater Reston Arts Center (12001 Market St.) through August.
- Kalypso’s (1617 Washington Plaza N.) will have live music tonight at 9:30 p.m.
- Vinifera Wine Bar and Bistro (11750 Sunrise Valley Drive) has live music from 7-10 p.m. every Friday and Saturday night. This weekend’s performers are Jason Morton (Friday) and Jason Masi (Saturday).
Students who will be graduating from South Lakes High School next week walked familiar halls this morning to provide inspiration to the community’s youth.
In a new tradition, seniors were able to visit their elementary school alma maters and celebrate with the kids there. Schools documented via social media the occasion, which was described as a moving experience for all involved.
— Sunrise Valley Elem (@SunriseValleyES) June 15, 2017
Familiar faces (Fox Mill alumni) are always welcomed back. Congratulations SL seniors! pic.twitter.com/UcvRW7gT4c
— Fox Mill ES (@FoxMillES) June 15, 2017
— Hunters Woods ES (@HuntersWoodsES) June 15, 2017
— Lake Anne Elementary (@LakeAnneEs) June 15, 2017
— Forest Edge (@ForestEdgeES) June 15, 2017
— Floris Elementary (@FlorisSchool) June 15, 2017
“This is the first year for this Graduate Walk but it went so beautifully that we hope to make it a yearly tradition,” said Emily Burrell, spokesperson for South Lakes High School. “It was an emotional experience for the soon-to-be graduates and their elementary teachers. And the elementary students were thrilled to celebrate the graduates. They even made signs in the South Lakes colors. There were tears of joy all around.”
Students who did not attend an elementary school in Reston were allowed to choose which school they visited, Burrell said.
South Lakes High School’s seniors will graduate during a ceremony Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Eagle Bank Arena on the campus of George Mason University.
Photos courtesy South Lakes High School
Friday, from 4:30-6:30 p.m., the school will hold its first farmers market.
The event will showcase students’ work throughout the year. On display will be a student-designed storefront garage sale featuring gently used toys, books, clothing, and recycled and repurposed items. The school’s Hydroponics Team will be selling the plants they’ve been cultivating throughout the year and members of the Green Team will sell room sprays, healthful fruit drinks and combined essential oils that they’ve made.
The underground, green school focuses on getting kids outside and learning about their environment. The students created their own business plan to organize the event.
“The event is run by the children, it’s not all the adults. I’m really proud of them,” said Jann Canestra, the outdoor learning coordinator.
Canestra runs the school’s Green Hour, where every child goes outside for an hour each day. She says the kids are enthusiastic about getting outside the classroom.
Principal Lindsay Trout will be on the grill for the event, which is open to both students and community members. The school is located at 11411 Ridge Heights Road.
Photo courtesy Fairfax County Public Schools
Herndon Man Dies in Route 7 Crash — Rush Hone Elmore, 69, died Friday after his vehicle was rear-ended near Leesburg. The impact of the crash forced his car off the roadway, where it overturned. He died at Reston Hospital Center. [Leesburg Police Department]
Units Respond to Kitchen Fire in Reston — Firefighters attacked a blaze Sunday afternoon at a home in the 12300 block of Brown Fox Way. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue/Twitter]
Plum Campaign Event Set for April 30 — Del. Ken Plum (D-Fairfax) will kick off his campaign for re-election to the state House of Delegates with a fundraiser at The Lake House (11450 Baron Cameron Ave.). Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring is scheduled to be in attendance to show his support. [Del. Ken Plum]
Reston Students Profiled in ‘KidsPost’ — Katie Damon’s second-grade class at Terraset Elementary School voted on their favorite author, singer, sport and more for a profile in this weekend’s Washington Post. The kids also reported what they want to be when they grow up and what superpower they’d like to have. [Washington Post]
Bridge Title Claimed by Herndon Woman — Li Yiting was part of the team that won the Machlin Women’s Swiss Teams event at the Spring North American Bridge Championships last month in Kansas City. This is her third championship win. [Fairfax Times]