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Private School Guide

Picking the right private high school is about more than getting into the right college–it's about finding a good match

By Michael S. Gerber

Religious or secular? Single sex or coed? Urban or suburban? Those are the easy questions if you're thinking about a private school for the high school years. Even after making those decisions, dozens of schools might remain on your list. As Maureen Appel, the head of school at the Connelly School of the Holy Child, attests, “We have many fine schools in the area.”

Beyond how many of a school's graduates go to the best colleges, the most important question is, “Does a school have a teaching philosophy and learning environment in which my child will thrive?”

In the following, Bethesda Magazine provides the “skinny” on 28 Bethesda-area private schools for grades 9-12.

Note: Tuition numbers are for the 2005-2006 school year, except when noted.

Maryland Schools

The Barrie School
13500 Layhill Road, Silver Spring
301-576-2800
www.barrie.org

The numbers:

  • Grades PK-12
  • About 105 students (grades 9-12)
  • Tuition is $20,890 (grades 9-12)

Getting in:

  • Open house is scheduled for Nov. 6
  • Application deadline is Feb. 1

The skinny: The Barrie School is not for students who are looking for a traditional prep school environment. The school enforces a “mandatory informality” policy, says Paul Belliveau, the head of the upper school, which means that students call their teachers by their first names. They also spend a lot of time out of the classroom, either on field trips or simply exploring the school's 45-acre campus… High school students at Barrie do not take separate English or history classes; instead, the subjects are integrated into a four-year humanities program. So when juniors study the history of the Indian subcontinent, they also read Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, all in the same class period and with the same instructor… Barrie's upper-school students also participate in the Extended Study Week each year, when they take time off from regular courses to focus exclusively on one topic that is not part of the traditional curriculum.

The Bullis School
10601 Falls Road, Potomac
301-299-8500
www.bullis.org

The numbers:

  • Grades 3-12
  • About 360 students (grades 9-12)
  • Tuition is $24,170 (grades 9-12)

Getting in:

  • Open house is scheduled for Nov. 6
  • Application deadline is Feb. 1

The skinny: Bullis has over 70 years of tradition and more than 80 acres of land at its Potomac campus. The sprawling campus makes Bullis very much a suburban prep school, known for solid academics and athletics programs. With the addition of a brand-new performing arts center three years ago, the school's reputation in the arts is improving as well, according to one education consultant. The arts center contains a 750-seat theater, practice rooms and music and art classrooms, including a dance studio, multimedia lab and photography studio… Bullis was founded 75 years ago as a school to prepare boys to enter the U.S. Naval Academy… Bullis, now coed, is also updating its athletic facilities, including the recent renovation of its stadium, part of a long-term effort to increase the enrollment at the school.

Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School
11710 Hunter's Lane, Rockville
301-881-1400
www.cesjds.org

The numbers:

  • Grades K-12
  • About 470 students (grades 9-12)
  • Tuition is $18,630 (grades 9-11), $9,520 (grade 12)

Getting in:

  • Tours and visits by appointment
  • Application deadline is Jan. 18

The skinny: The Jewish Day School is not affiliated with any synagogue or movement, so its students cover all ranges of Jewish thought and practice. The curriculum includes Jewish history, Hebrew language and literature, and religion, as well as a typical high school course of study. “Other than prayer in the morning, if you walk through the halls it's the same as any other school,” says Roslyn Landy, the interim principal of the upper school. In high school, students choose how they wish to spend their morning prayer time, so some even participate in a group that focuses on spirituality without prayer… The school built a high school building just five years ago, so its classrooms, labs, sports facilities and art studios are all new… Seniors finish school after one semester, and nearly all of them spend the second half on a trip to Eastern Europe and Israel.

Chelsea School
711 Pershing Drive, Silver Spring
301- 585-1430
www.chelseaschool.edu

The numbers:

  • Grades 5-12
  • About 65 students (grades 9-12)
  • Tuition is $32,020 (grades 9-12)

Getting in:

  • Open house is scheduled for Nov. 18
  • Applications are accepted on a rolling basis

The skinny: The Chelsea School, which specializes in teaching students who have language-based learning disabilities, has had quite a year. In May, students picketed outside the special education school in protest of a decision by administrators to make faculty members reapply for their jobs. That decision came soon after the departure of the school's longtime president, Timothy Hall.… This past summer, Chelsea's board brought in a new headmaster, New Yorker Anthony Messina Jr., who plans major changes. “I think Chelsea's just been sitting around being Chelsea for the past five years,” Messina says. His plans include a major emphasis on science, math and technology–including the eventual construction of a new “global technology center.” The school is also hiring a more experienced staff, Messina says, and expanding its athletics program.

Connelly School of the Holy Child
9029 Bradley Blvd., Potomac
301-365-0955
www.holychild.org

The numbers:

  • Grades 6-12
  • About 300 students (grades 9-12)
  • Tuition is $17,695 (grades 9-12)

Getting in:

  • Open house is scheduled for Nov. 6
  • Application deadline is Dec. 15

The skinny: Maureen Appel, a Holy Child alumna who is now the head of school, says the goal of the school is to “treat the child as an individual and work with [her] closely so we can help her uncover any special talents she might have but she doesn't know about.” … Holy Child, an all-girls Catholic school, recently built a new chapel, faculty lounge and athletic office. The construction project also included a renovation of the main building, which houses upper school classrooms. “We want our school to look like a house, where we feel at home,” Appel says. The additions come just two years after the construction of a building with a brand-new library, fitness center, dance studio and computer lab… While the Holy Child curriculum is a typical college prep program, Appel says the school “has a special commitment to the fine and performing arts. Our musical theater program is very strong.”

DeMatha Catholic High School
4313 Madison St., Hyattsville
301-864-3666
www.dematha.org

The numbers:

  • Grades 9-12
  • About 1006 students
  • Tuition is $8,375

Getting in:

  • Open house is scheduled for Nov. 13
  • Application deadline is Dec. 15

The skinny: DeMatha is probably best known for its dominating sports teams; Sports Illustrated recently named the school's athletics program the second best in the country. While the school is proud of its winning teams, Principal Daniel McMahon says the Catholic boys school's reputation for athletic excellence can be a mixed blessing. “A lot of people believe…that we must cheat, or that we have no academic standards whatsoever.” But McMahon counters those comments by pointing to the school's stellar music program, advanced course offerings and faculty, whose recent accolades include a national chemistry teacher of the year award from the American Chemical Society… DeMatha has a population that is diverse religiously, ethnically and geographically. About 60 percent of the students hail from Prince George's County; the rest mostly live in Montgomery and D.C. According to McMahon, a little more than half of the students are Catholic. Each DeMatha boy, regardless of his religion, takes four years of theology classes.

The Georgetown Preparatory School
10900 Rockville Pike, Bethesda
301-493-5000
www.gprep.org

The numbers:

  • Grades 9-12
  • About 445 students (about 100 board)
  • Tuition is $19,640 for day students, $34,730 for residents

Getting in:

  • Open house is scheduled for Nov. 13
  • Application deadline is Jan. 15

The skinny: Georgetown Prep is the oldest Jesuit school in the country, founded in 1789. The school has a traditional curriculum, including religious courses and a Latin requirement, but also utilizes new technology. “It’s very high-tech here,” says Admissions Director Michael Horsey. “You can teach a traditional curriculum but involve the high-tech aspect without the high-tech becoming the end in itself.” … Prep’s huge campus in Bethesda is undergoing a $35 million construction project. A new athletic center, scheduled to open next fall, will include a regulation indoor track, a 1,000-seat basketball gym, a 6,000-square-foot fitness center and a 10-lane pool. The school’s old field house is being converted into a learning center, which will house a new library, classrooms and space for student organizations… Prep is also redoing its on-campus golf course, which will use three fairways with eight greens to create a nine-hole course.

The Heights School
10400 Seven Locks Road, Potomac
301-365-4300
www.heights.edu

The numbers:

  • Grades 3-12
  • About 230 students (grades 9-12)
  • Tuition is $14,425 (grades 9-12)

Getting in:

  • Open house is scheduled for Feb. 10
  • Application deadline is Jan. 31

The skinny: Al de Vicente, alumnus and headmaster, says that Heights boys are “interested in life [and] want to find out how things work and why things are the way they are.” The all-boys school offers a traditional liberal arts program taught by an all-male faculty. This year, the Heights expanded its advanced placement offerings and added a third year of ancient Greek… The high school is on the hill that gives the school its name, but students interact with the younger boys who spend their days in the “valley” on three festival days, where students of all ages compete in events ranging from athletics to poetry… While the Heights is very much a Catholic school, attendance at Mass is voluntary and non-Catholic students take four years of ethics class instead of the religion class. “If you’re not Catholic, you don’t have to take religion…you don’t have to step inside the chapel at all,” de Vicente says, but adds “there’s a very Catholic atmosphere.”

The Holton-Arms School
7300 River Road, Bethesda
301-365-5300
www.holton-arms.edu

The numbers:

  • Grades 3-12
  • About 325 students (grades 9-12)
  • Tuition is $23,500 (grades 9-12)

 Getting in:

  • Open house is scheduled for Nov. 20
  • Application deadline is Feb. 1

The skinny: Diana Beebe, the head of school at Holton-Arms, describes the school's mission as developing “the unique potential of each girl.” The independent all-girls school encourages students to discover their passions and pursue them. The school has a state-of-the-art music technology program that allows girls to record scores they've composed. Holton-Arms also recently hired a full-time director of student research to help students develop science research proposals and find professional researchers who will mentor them and support their projects. That is just one example of Holton-Arms' effort to expand science and technology opportunities for young women… For two straight years, Holton-Arms has won the Lewis Cup, which goes to the school with the best overall performance in athletics in the 17-team Independent Schools League… In 2003, Holton-Arms completed its largest construction project since moving to Bethesda in 1963; the additions include a new science wing, black box theater and all-weather track.

Landon School
6101 Wilson Lane, Bethesda
301-320-3200
www.landon.net

The numbers:

  • Grades 3-12
  • About 333 students (grades 9-12)
  • Tuition is $24,500 (grades 9-12)

Getting in:

  • Open house is scheduled for Nov. 5
  • Application deadline is Jan. 31

The skinny: Landon has a reputation for producing athletes. Every boy is expected to participate in either interscholastic or intramural athletics every day of the school year… Landon says it is the only option between Baltimore and Richmond for students who want a nonreligious all-boys education. The all-boys atmosphere creates a very competitive environment on Landon's 75-acre Bethesda campus, according to one education consultant. But Admissions Director Russ Gagarin says the single-sex school “can be a very comfortable place for boys to learn.” Juniors have the opportunity to spend a semester in rural Vermont, and at the end of senior year, every student must conceive and complete a four-week off-campus project. The school also offers summer science and language programs in France, Spain and China.

McLean School of Maryland
8224 Lochinver Lane, Potomac
301-299-8277
www.mcleanschool.org

The numbers:

  • Grades K-12
  • About 130 students (grades 9-12)
  • Tuition is $23,000 (grades 9 and 10), $24,500 (grades 11 and 12)

Getting in:

  • Several open houses in November, December and January
  • Application deadline is Feb. 1

The skinny: The McLean School graduated its third high school class in June. “Because we're so new, we're still evolving,” says Darlene Pierro, the head of school. The upper school, which is in a new wing of the building, follows the philosophy of the older, lower grades. “We believe every student has a unique learning style,” Pierro says, so teachers are encouraged to utilize many different methods… While the curriculum is fairly traditional, some aspects of McLean's program differ from a typical high school program. English and literature, for example, are taught as two separate courses. Each student is required to take four years of English, which focuses on writing, as well as four years of literature… Because McLean's upper school is new, its extracurricular programs are still in development. Over the next few years, Pierro says, the school will be looking to expand its varsity athletics options and expand its young theater program.

Saint Andrew’s Episcopal School
6101 Wilson Lane, Bethesda
301-320-3200
www.landon.net

The numbers:

  • Grades 3-12
  • About 333 students (grades 9-12)
  • Tuition is $24,500 (grades 9-12)

Getting in:

  • Open house is scheduled for Nov. 5
  • Application deadline is Jan. 31

The skinny: St. Andrew’s curriculum reflects the school's philosophy that academics, art, athletics and spirituality are the “four pillars” of an education. Students are required to take two trimesters of art each year. They also take one trimester of religion, and students who enroll during high school must take a Bible class as well… Like most area schools, St. Andrew's has a community-service graduation requirement. But this year the school went a step further, turning the ninth-grade religion class into a community-service course. Now, students do service as part of the curriculum, and also discuss the projects and how they relate to Episcopalian values… Another new class is the senior elective “Race and Culture,” now in its second year, which includes a collaboration with students from Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington and an exchange program with two South African high schools… In 1998, St. Andrew's moved to a brand-new campus and opened its 75,000-foot classroom building.

Sandy Spring Friends School
16923 Norwood Road, Sandy Spring
301-774-7455
www.ssfs.org

The numbers:

  • Grades PK-12
  • About 237 students (grades 9-12)
  • Tuition is $20,100 for day students, $28,600 for 5-day boarders and $34,700 for 7-day boarders (grades 9-12)

Getting in:

  • Open house is scheduled for Nov. 5
  • Application deadline is Jan. 15

The skinny: Sandy Spring Friends' high school program opens with a hiking trip for the entire ninth-grade class. The trip leads into a freshman year that is considered part of the Upper School, but also its own entity. Most classrooms are in a designated ninth-grade wing of the building, and the curriculum is integrated across the subject areas… With 140 acres, the school's campus has room for a pond, a ropes course and expansion: This year saw the construction of a new athletics facility and a new performing arts center… Sandy Spring Friends has a boarding option for the high school. Boarding students can choose between a seven-day or a five-day program… In the spring, students participate in Intersession, a two-week break from the school's regular schedule when special courses are offered, ranging from local community service to overseas travel.

Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart
9101 Rockville Pike, Bethesda
301-657-4322
www.stoneridge.org

The numbers:

  • PK-12
  • About 329 students (grades 9-12)
  • Tuition is $18,355 (grades 9-12)

Getting in:

  • Open house is scheduled for Nov. 13
  • Application deadline is Jan. 13

The skinny: Stone Ridge provides a traditional Catholic education in an all-girls setting. As part of the network of Sacred Heart schools, students have opportunities to participate in exchange programs in this country and around the world. The school is also part of a consortium that includes Landon, St. Andrew's, Holton-Arms and Holy Child; the five Bethesda schools offer courses that meet before the regular day starts, allowing students to interact with other students and take classes not offered at their schools… Students at Stone Ridge take a week off from classes to do a one-week internship with local alumnae during February of senior year… This summer, Stone Ridge opened its brand-new aquatics center. The new facility features an indoor pool with a retractable roof, which will be used by the school's swimming and diving teams, as well as its water polo club.

Thornton Friends School
13925 New Hampshire Ave., Silver Spring
301-384-6672
www.thorntonfriends.org

The numbers:

  • Grades 6-12
  • About 54 students (grades 9-12)
  • Tuition is $17,995 (grades 9-12)

Getting in:

  • Open houses are scheduled for Nov. 17, Jan. 5, Feb. 16 and March 9
  • Rolling admissions

The skinny: Many of the area's private schools are small, but Thornton Friends is one of the smallest. The average class size is nine students. “We get to know [students] personally in terms of their goals and life philosophy,” says Head of School Michael DeHart. DeHart describes the Thornton Friends student as a “curious, gentle-spirited, unconventional out-of-the-box thinker and learner.” … Last year the school added an Interim program, which is a two-week period between semesters when students take a course not offered during the regular school year, such as quilt making, stained glass and guitar. After the two-week period, the courses continue to meet weekly during the second semester… DeHart says the school purchased some property next to the high school and hopes to move its middle school campus to the same location. “We are looking at expanding,” he says.

Washington Waldorf School
4800 Sangamore Road, Bethesda
301-229-6107
www.washingtonwaldorf.org

The numbers:

  • Grades PK-12
  • About 69 students (grades 9-12)
  • Tuition is $16,740 (grades 9-12)

Getting in:

  • Information sessions scheduled for Nov. 29 and monthly thereafter
  • Application deadline is Jan. 31

The skinny: The Waldorf method's emphasis on arts, music and hands-on learning continues in the high school years, although the curriculum also includes the more traditional aspects of a college-prep program. Each grade takes 10 morning block classes a year, seminars ranging from plant chemistry to art history for freshmen and biochemistry to American transcendentalists for seniors. The rest of the day is filled up with academic classes and arts, as well as eurythmy, a class unique to the Waldorf system. Eurythmy is a “dance-life art form in which words or music are expressed through bodily movement,” according to the school's Web site… While Waldorf is a small school, it still participates in a limited number of interscholastic sports as part of the Potomac Valley Athletic Conference… Waldorf education discourages the use of computers by younger students, but by middle school, Washington Waldorf students begin using computers, and the high school has its own computer lab.

 

Washington, D.C., Schools

British School of Washington
4715 16th St., NW
202-829-3700
www.britishschool.org/washington

The numbers:

  • Grades PK-12 (13 years in the British system)
  • About 100 students (years 6-13)
  • Tuition is $17,050 (years 9-11) and $19,050 (years 12 and 13)

Getting in:

  • Open house is scheduled for Nov. 11
  • Rolling admissions

The skinny: The British Schools of America are gaining in popularity; a fifth school recently opened in Charlotte, N.C. The British School of Washington opened in 1998, originally intended as a place for British citizens to send their children. Less than a decade later, about half of the students are American, according to Head of School Jenny Arwas. “They like the rigor of our education system [and] our pastoral care of our pupils,” Arwas says. This year's graduating class was the first at the school… Students at the British School follow the British national curriculum and the International Baccalaureate program. They choose nine or 10 subjects to study throughout their high school years. “We have a 'spiral curriculum,'” Arwas says. “We teach everything and we come back to it and move it forward the following year.” … Housed in an old residence, the British School recently modernized its classrooms with the installation of interactive white boards.

The Edmund Burke School
2955 Upton St., NW
202-362-8882
www.eburke.org

The numbers:

  • Grades 6-12
  • About 215 students (grades 9-12)
  • Tuition is $23,400

Getting in:

  • Open house is scheduled for Jan. 7
  • Application deadline is Jan. 23

The skinny: The Edmund Burke School provides a liberal arts education in the heart of Northwest Washington. “We are truly an urban school,” says Admissions Director Jean Marchildon. Edmund Burke is just steps away from the Van Ness Metro station, and students in the high school often leave campus during lunch… Edmund Burke's program includes the typical college-prep courses, although their students get a little more choice in the English Department. Juniors and seniors take trimester-long electives that allow them to focus on specific areas of literature; options include film noir, romance and realism and autobiography, among many others… The school is in the midst of adding a new building and restructuring parts of its current facilities. Next fall, the new building is scheduled to open with a theater, additional classrooms and new art studios. The old art rooms are being converted into new science labs. “We're building a new building because we need space for who are we now,” Marchildon says. “We will not be increasing enrollment.”

Emerson Preparatory School
1324 18th St., NW
202-785-2877
www.emersonprep.net

The numbers:

  • Grades 9-12
  • About 85 students
  • Tuition is $18,000

Getting in:

  • Call to schedule a tour
  • Rolling admissions

The skinny: Founded in 1852, Emerson Prep is not your typical high school. Just take last year's top two graduates: The valedictorian was a 14-year-old girl, the salutatorian a 16-year-old Russian immigrant. Emerson “is good for all kinds of learners,” said Associate Director Carol Humphrey, including “young prodigies” as well as “kids who have been in public school and feel overwhelmed.” … Emerson students take a college-like schedule: four courses per term for 90-minute periods each day. The curriculum includes traditional high school courses but also offers other options, like international relations, astronomy and cultural anthropology… A small school, Emerson doesn't offer extracurricular activities—no sports teams, no theater groups, no quiz bowl team. But that doesn't mean Emerson students don't excel in those fields off campus—last year's valedictorian participated as an equestrian outside of school, and one of Emerson's most famous graduates is television and film star, Jared Leto.

The Field School
2301 Foxhall Road, NW
202-295-5800
www.fieldschool.com

The numbers:

  • Grades 7-12
  • About 230 students (grades 9-12)
  • Tuition is $24,900 (grades 9-12)

Getting in:

  • Call to schedule a tour
  • Application deadline is Jan. 15

The skinny: The Field School moved from Dupont Circle to a former estate in upper Northwest Washington in the fall of 2002. The move created more field space, a gym and parking, but the school deliberately stuck with small classrooms and narrow hallways to develop what Admissions Director Clay Kaufman calls “a strong sense of community.” The school still has plans to add one more building with meeting space and additional classrooms… Field's curriculum is a traditional college-prep program. But each student takes a studio art class every day of every year that they attend Field. The courses, taught by professionals in their fields, include photography, digital arts, video, ceramics and others… Like the Barrie School, Field encourages informality. Students call teachers by their first names and classes are small, what Kaufman calls “a very personal style, very discussion oriented.”

Georgetown Day School
4200 Davenport St., NW
202-274-3200
www.gds.org

The numbers:

  • Grades PK-12
  • About 450 students (grades 9-12)
  • Tuition is $24,303 (grades 9-11) and $24,468 (grade 12)

Getting in:

  • Open house is scheduled Nov. 10
  • Application deadline is Jan. 13

The skinny: Georgetown Day School continues to place an emphasis on diversity 60 years after it was founded as the only integrated high school in Washington. It is an independent prep school, with no affiliation with the university with which it shares a name… The high school has a strong academic reputation. Located near the Tenleytown Metro stop, GDS also has a more urban feel than many of the Bethesda area schools. That means there isn't quite as much room for athletic fields, nature paths or ponds, but enough for an addition: The school is in the midst of its largest construction project since the high school was built in 1987. The $15 million renovation and expansion will give the school a new science wing, theater and athletic complex.

Gonzaga College High School
19 Eye St., NW
202-336-7100
www.gonzaga.org

The numbers:

  • Grades 9-12
  • About 900 students
  • Tuition is $12,300

Getting in:

  • Open house is scheduled for Nov. 20
  • Application deadline is Dec. 15

The skinny: Like Georgetown Prep, Gonzaga has a long history, dating back nearly 200 years. But unlike many of its competitors, Gonzaga is located in the heart of Washington, not far from Union Station, and Admissions Director Andrew Battaile says that location is one aspect that makes Gonzaga different. “They come down here to get an education in the real world,” he says. Students volunteer at a homeless shelter on the school's campus, and at the same time attend school just blocks from the heart of the nation's government… Gonzaga is in the midst of a renovation campaign that includes new classrooms and science labs, a new cafeteria and improved athletic facilities. The next step will be redoing the school's theater, Battaile says… Gonzaga draws from all around the Washington metro area, and about 85 percent of its students are Catholic.

Maret School
3000 Cathedral Ave., NW
202-939-8800
www.maret.org

The numbers:

  • Grades K-12
  • About 300 students (grades 9-12)
  • Tuition is $23,865 (grades 9-12)

Getting in:

  • Open house is scheduled for Dec. 4
  • Application deadline is Jan. 6

The skinny: Maret has a reputation for being a strong academic school, but it is also known for its arts program. “They have great arts,” says an education consultant. Located on a historic estate near the National Zoo in Washington, its campus gives the school a suburban feel in the heart of the city. Maret's program is challenging, but at the same time the school says it has a “relaxed, creative atmosphere.” Instead of teaching history and English as separate disciplines, Maret has a humanities department that coordinates the two subjects.… Maret recently dedicated the second phase of a major renovation and construction project. There are new science facilities and art studios as well as a 350-seat performing arts theater… Maret has an Intensive Study Week in February, giving students a week off from regular classes to study a topic in-depth.

National Cathedral School
Mount Saint Alban, NW
202-537-6339
www.ncs.cathedral.org

The numbers:

  • Grades 4-12
  • About 308 students (grades 9-12)
  • Tuition is $24,724 (grades 9-12)

Getting in:

  • Open house is scheduled for Nov. 20
  • Application deadline is Jan. 1

The skinny: Elinor Scully, head of the upper school, says the name of the National Cathedral School (NCS) doesn't merely refer to the school's location. “We're in the shadow of this magnificent building,” Scully says. “The mission of the National Cathedral…shapes the approach to moral, spiritual and ethical education.” … Having St. Albans right next door means girls at NCS have the opportunity to take some coed classes while still attending an all-girls school. Most of the performing arts are taught in coordination with St. Albans, as are many of the more academic electives.… The school recently completed construction of a new athletic facility. Scully says the project is not merely for the students on competitive sports teams. “Part of how we are hoping to use that facility is to look at the notion of health and wellness… taking care of their bodies and their minds,” she says, which includes offerings like yoga and Pilates classes.

Saint Albans School
Mount Saint Alban, NW
202-537-6435
www.stalbansschool.org

The numbers:

  • Grades 4-12
  • About 310 students (grades 9-12)
  • Tuition $24,768 for day students, $35,035 for boarders (grades 9-12)

Getting in:

  • Open house is scheduled for Nov. 6
  • Application deadline is Jan. 15

The skinny: Mason Lecky, the admissions director, says that the main difference between the lower grades and the high school at St. Albans is that “the upper school is designed to replicate a college experience: the movement that boys have from class to class, the degree of freedom and autonomy.” … Students eat their meals family style, so upper- school students have frequent interaction with the younger students in the school. “We expect our boys to be part of the community,” Lecky explains… St. Albans recently received approval to renovate its campus. The plan calls for additional classrooms and meeting space, an upgrade to the sports facilities including a new track and an underground performing arts theater that the school will share with National Cathedral School… The renovations will provide more practice space for St. Albans’ athletics program. “We consider athletics to be co-curricular, not extracurricular,” Lecky says.

Saint Anselm's Abbey School
4501 South Dakota Ave., NE
202-269-2350
www.saintanselms.org/school

The numbers:

  • Grades 6-12
  • About 150 students (grades 9-12)
  • Tuition is $16,600 (grades 9-12)

Getting in:

  • Open house is scheduled for Nov. 6
  • Rolling admissions

The skinny: St. Anselm's offers a traditional Catholic college prep program for boys in a small-school setting. “The class sizes are small…so it amounts practically to individual tutoring,” says Father Michael Hall, academic dean and headmaster emeritus… The school's curriculum includes Latin, western civilization and religion courses. The student body is about 40 percent non-Catholic, according to Hall. And while it teaches Roman Catholic doctrine, St. Anselm's also offers other religion electives, including Gregorian Chant, ethics and comparative religion… Hall admits that a “really gung-ho full-time athlete” might not be comfortable at the school, but he stresses that St. Anselm's provides an opportunity for students to be involved in a wide range of activities. “We look for universalists rather than specialists,” he says, “people with a broad range of interests.” … St. Anselm's recently completed a construction project that added a gymnasium and theater.

Sidwell Friends School
3825 Wisconsin Ave., NW
202-537-8100
www.sidwell.edu

The numbers:

  • Grades PK-12
  • About 470 students (grades 9-12)
  • Tuition is $24,545 (grades 9-12)

Getting in:

  • Call for information about open houses
  • Application deadline is Jan. 6

The skinny: Sidwell Friends, a Quaker school, has a reputation as one of the “finest academic institutions in the country,” says an education consultant. The school has a relaxed and informal atmosphere, but stringent academic standards. “Students that thrive at Sidwell are intellectually curious, well-rounded in their academic and extracurricular interests, independent learners and self-motivated students,” according to Josh Wolman, admissions director… Sidwell is in the midst of renovating its campus. The plans call for additional parking and traffic management, more space for arts and athletics, and a new Quaker meeting house… In honor of a late Sidwell alum who studied in China, the school has a Chinese Studies program that includes language and history classes, exchange programs and fellowships, and a Chinese resource center in the upper school's library.

Washington International School
3100 Macomb St., NW
202-243-1800
www.wis.edu

The numbers:

  • Grades PK-12
  • About 120 students (grades 9-12)
  • Tuition is $22,115 (grades 9-12)

Getting in:

  • Call for information about tours
  • Application deadline is Jan. 10

The skinny: The Washington International School is the only school in the area that offers the International Baccalaureate program in the preschool and elementary years, as well as middle school and high school. The school also emphasizes multilingual education—including a Dutch language program supported by the government of the Netherlands, and French and Spanish tracts. “Our mission is to challenge students to become responsible and effective world citizens,” says school spokeswoman Selby McPhee… About 40 percent of the students have two American parents, 30 percent have one American parent, and 30 percent have two parents with international passports… The high school is housed in a historic former estate, but just five years ago the school added new arts and athletics facilities. There are plans to build a black box theater, a new library and information center and some additional classroom space.

Freelance writer Michael S. Gerber is a Bethesda resident.

 

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