Bel Air Panthers celebrate proud record of success for 50 years
Posted on 11/09/2018
Picture of students walking into Bel Air Elementary under balloon archThe children seated on the floor in Bel Air Elementary School’s cafetorium this morning let out a cheer each time a new picture emerged on the projection screen above the stage. For students who clearly were aware this was a big anniversary party and a big deal, everything was worth a grand cheer.

The slideshow of the school’s 50-year timeline was predictably the highlight of the first wave of celebration activities for Bel Air students. After visiting dignitaries praised and congratulated the students, staff, and Principal Antoinette McDonald, the students returned to their classrooms for instruction before the next fun event.

The anniversary party resumed in the afternoon with an indoor “field day” featuring games and activities throughout the school. Staff and parent volunteers helped make the day special for the 400 students who call Bel Air their home away from home—and where dreams of success have no limits.

The anniversary also brought together a cadre of former teachers and other staff who joined Bel Air Elementary School when it opened in November 1968. Bel Air was the third elementary school built to serve the new community of Dale City.

Speakers included Steve Walts, Superintendent of Schools; School Board Vice Chairman Lillie Jessie (Occoquan); Senator Jeremy McPike; and Todd Erickson, associate superintendent for Central Elementary Schools.

“Bel Air has a great reputation for excellence and learning,” said Walts. “Think of the thousands of students who have gone through the doors of Bel Air before you. Many have come back to teach; that’s the power of a great education.”

Walts looked to the future, as did others who spoke. “One of you may one day be solving the world’s problems, like hunger,” said Walts.

“One of you today could be a future president,” said McPike, who presented a Virginia Senate Resolution to McDonald on behalf of the Virginia General Assembly. “Be a good citizen, with a capital ‘C’,” he said.

Jessie enthusiastically expressed her connection to Bel Air and Principal McDonald, who was a teacher at Vaughan Elementary School when Jessie was principal there. Jessie’s first job with Prince William County Public Schools was as a teacher at Bel Air Elementary.

Closing the program, Instructional Technology Coach Chris Rinker, serving as emcee, gave the students a homework assignment: write a letter to future students telling them who or what you will become in 30 years. He read a letter from a time capsule sealed 20 years ago in which a student said he would be working at McDonald’s. Rinker called this student’s mother and learned that, today, the former student is a lawyer. This news generated a round of applause, and the assembly closed on an even higher note.