Neighborhood schools filled with tradition, global outlook

The schools in Georgetown are as steeped in tradition and diversity as the area itself. While each school is similar in the fact that its classrooms are filled with hardworking students, each has strikingly different characteristics.

Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School, at 1524 35th St. NW, is a high school for girls founded in 1799 by nuns, making it the oldest Catholic school in the original 13 colonies. Billie McSeveney, the school’s communications director, said many different religions are represented in its student body, but that the majority of the girls are Catholic.

This year the school has filled its enrollment cap of 480 students, with a fairly even distribution of girls from Washington, Virginia and Maryland. Certain selection criteria must be met for acceptance into the school, and their places are highly coveted. It is estimated that three or four girls vie for each spot. McSeveney said “there is an incredible spirit, both in energy and compassion, here,” adding that the girls-only academic setting teaches the students to be empowered, and that after they graduate, sexism doesn’t seem to bother them as much as students who studied in co-ed classrooms.

The school is renowned for not only its strong academics, but also its extracurricular activities. Students are required to complete at least 80 hours of community service, and have several school-wide service projects. One hundred percent of the girls go on to college after their senior year.

Two other schools in Georgetown are more modern, but both share a highly global outlook.

Stoddert Elementary School, at 4001 Calvert St. NW, is a “true microcosm of the world,” said Principal Marjorie Cuthbert. She said the public school’s 350 students this year come from 38 different countries. Once the students leave the fifth grade, many continue on to Hardy Middle School.

In addition to touting the benefits of recycling to the students (posters for the classroom include a kid-friendly twist on Rosie the Riveter and Uncle Sam campaigns to recycle) the school made major changes in the past three years to become more green.

A newly built addition to the school uses geothermal energy, and the building materials are recycled products. In addition to this, the school now uses more than 30 percent less energy than it did previously — thanks to the 72 wells placed under the soccer field that heat and cool the entire building. Cuthbert said the project was completed in less than three years, which includes the introduction of the geothermal wells, the addition built on to the school building and a complete renovation of the interior of the whole school — old and new. 

There is a special team of fifth-graders called “The Green Team,” who give tours of the school’s new green features.

The school building is “a community-focused campus” that is constantly being used by the students, who can participate in sports teams associated with the Department of Recreation, Cuthbert said. They also go to the Fillmore Arts Center once a week for several hours to participate in drama, music and arts programs. From the variety of classes and afterschool opportunities the students have, to the global outlook of their school, they are getting a solid foundation to enter today’s world, Cuthbert said.

The British School of Washington, 2001 Wisconsin Ave. NW, is another global community school in Georgetown. Founded in 1998, it has students as young as 9 months, all the way through the senior year of high school — known as grade 13 in this British school. All of the teachers were college-educated in Great Britain, but the students are from all over the world. About 40 percent are American, another 40 percent are British and the remaining 20 percent are from other nations. Last year, more than 40 different languages were spoken in the student body, but all classes are taught in English.

“Giving the students a global perspective is the best way to get them ready for the real world,” said Anna Ellenbogen, the school’s director of admissions and marketing.

In addition to the variety of classes offered to the students, they are prepared for life after high school by wearing uniforms until grade 11. Elleborgen said the uniform mandate prepares the students to adhere to a professional dress code after high school. 

“BSW has a school uniform in order to create a professional environment and to minimize economic differences among students so that they may focus on the priority of learning,” she said. For their final two years of high school, they are allowed to wear “business casual.” 

Ellenbogen said 100 percent of the British School’s students go on to college, and are fairly evenly split between universities in America and abroad. From the time they start their schooling, everyone makes sure they and their parents are included in the school family. The parents association is “very active,” Ellenbogen said, and they make sure that everyone in the family is comfortable and welcomed at the school.