The early history of Langston Hughes Middle School is entwined with that of South Lakes High School. South Lakes originally opened as a secondary school on September 5, 1978, with more than 1,600 students in grades 7-10. Fairfax County Public Schools officials planned for South Lakes to operate as a secondary school for two years until a new intermediate school could be built, after which South Lakes would become a full-fledged high school.
On September 4, 1979, South Lakes began opening day with some 2,100 students in grades 7-11. A separate intermediate school for grades 7-8 was organized under principal Elizabeth Lodal. FCPS officials hoped to have the intermediate school building complete for the start of the 1980-81 school year on September 2, 1980, but that didn't come to fruition. When schools opened in September, students in grades 7-12 occupied the South Lakes building. The student body was again divided into two separate schools, one for the intermediate grades and another for the high school grades. For two months, students attended school on double-shifts with children in grades 9-12 attending school from 7:00 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., and students in grades 7-8 attending school from 12:30 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.
In 1960, when the first intermediate schools opened, Fairfax County Public Schools began a longstanding tradition of naming such schools for famous authors and poets. During the 1979-80 school year, while our school was under construction, Principal Elizabeth Lodal began informally asking students and parents which American literary figure our school should be named for. Two names quickly rose to the top of the list: Edna St. Vincent Millay and Langston Hughes. Both Millay and Hughes were born around the turn of the last century and became famous in New York City in the 1920s. Millay was considered the foremost female poet of her time, winning the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1923. Hughes, well known as a writer of poetry, prose, fiction, and children's books passed away in 1967, and at the time of our school's construction there was a national resurgence of interest in his work. On June 12, 1980, the Fairfax County School Board officially named the intermediate school at South Lakes the Langston Hughes Intermediate School. Our school was renamed Langston Hughes Middle School in the early 1990s.
Why was poet Langston Hughes so famous?
Wednesday, November 5, 1980 was a very memorable day for Langston Hughes Intermediate School students and staff. This was the first day our new school building was open to students. Newspapers recorded that a cheering army of 953 seventh and eighth graders marched over from South Lakes High School carrying boxes of books. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held at which Langston Hughes' poetry was read. The ceremony also featured band music, colorful banners, and an ice cream social. An air sculpture of immense balloons, created under the auspices of the Greater Reston Arts Center, was launched with more cheers.
The First Day
Monday, November 10, 1980, marked the first day of classes in the newly opened Langston Hughes Intermediate School building. Some sections of the building were roped off because construction work was still in progress. These areas included the gymnasium, industrial arts classrooms, and the school kitchen. In the meantime, students were served cold "Super Sack" lunches of sandwiches and fruit. Our school was officially dedicated at a ceremony on May 17, 1981. Hughes Intermediate School was the pride of the Reston community, and the recurring theme in all of the speeches given that Sunday afternoon was that of a dream come true. Our school orchestra played during the ceremony and the school chorus sang Langston Hughes' poem “Hold Fast to Dreams,” which they set to music.
Design and Construction
Langston Hughes Middle School was designed by architect Douglas Carter of the firm Davis, Smith, Carter and Rider, Inc. Carter's design was also used for Rocky Run Middle School, and both buildings were planned to accommodate a total of 1,200 students. The construction contract for our building was awarded to the Caristo Construction Company in the amount of $5.5 million. Caristo Construction was contracted to build Langston Hughes and Rocky Run at the same time. Inadequate resources applied to the job by the contractor and specifically the electrical sub-contractor led to the delayed completion of our school.