What Makes Grace Unique

Happy New Year from Director of Admission Karen O’Connor-Floman!

Recently, I was invited to a local preschool to share some of the things that make Grace special. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to reflect on the unique qualities of our community.

girls hugging

Number 1. Grace is a joyful place

In a recent faculty meeting, we sat down to review our Desired Student Learning Outcomes. And one word we kept getting hung up on was “joy.”

Like all independent schools, Grace offers extremely strong core academics and special subjects. We strive to know each child as a learner, meeting them where they are, and helping them progress in their understanding and competence. 

But we also understand that children’s social and emotional health is paramount, and crucial to their ability to learn. With levels of childhood anxiety and depression rising, we educators must make sure that we are tuned in to the needs of the children in our care. And we must also teach children to be positive agents of change by nurturing their goodness, their commitment to social justice, and their sense of possibility.

At Grace, that means making time for joyful, fun experiences every day. It means at least two recess periods each day for all classes at Grace, from Preschool to Grade 5. For Kindergarteners, it’s dedicated puzzle, play, and choice time. It’s a lively Friday morning assembly every week where family and friends are invited. It’s buddies across the classes and letting Grade 2 students spend time on the playground with the Preschoolers. It also means an experienced learning specialist who works with teachers and students to support social skills and well-being.

Number 2: Grace is diverse and inclusive

As the most racially and ethnically diverse independent school in the area, with over 50% students of color, our student body composition represents something very close to the demographics of Greater Washington. This inclusive community is in our DNA and was the reason for our founding in 1959. And I can’t say it any better than one of our parents, who is an Episcopal priest, recently said in a sermon she gave on Episcopal Schools Day. Grace is:  

“Diverse in socio-economics, ethnicity, religion, languages spoken in the household. [You’ll find] single sex two-parent families, single-parent families, multiracial families: diversity that reflects the realities of the world in which the children will have to function in. And this diversity is done with purpose. There are numerous attributes that contribute to Grace’s being a fine school, but I believe that being in community with people who look different, speak different, eat different foods, helps a child thrive in a diverse world. So it’s not just being compassionate, or kind to others who are like me, it’s about being compassionate and kind to all God’s children whether they look like me, talk like me, or dress like me.”

Number 3: Grace is affordable

If you think that your child and family would benefit from being a part of a smaller, calmer, more personalized school environment, but have previously dismissed independent or private school as out of reach financially, I urge you to put Grace on your list of schools.

We are the first school in the area to introduce a tiered, or indexed, tuition system called Variable Tuition. Knowing that affordability is the largest barrier to families considering independent schools, we decided to approach the issue head-on and move from a financial aid model to one that promotes more equity. Now, rather than offer financial aid packages to families, Grace offers a range of tuitions. Our ideal is that each family’s tuition be in line with what that family can afford to contribute. You can learn much more on our Affording Grace page.

Number 4: Grace is manageable

In a sometimes overwhelming world, Grace is manageable in every way. And as a parent navigating the wild ride of raising children in the city, I especially appreciate this. We are:  

  • Centrally located and easy to manage logistically. There’s plenty of parking and a friendly carpool line at drop off and pick up.
  • Small. We have 106 students, and average class size is 13-16 students. Neither you nor your child will get lost.
  • Active but understanding: we have amazingly committed parent volunteers, and are mindful to structure our school and community activities to make sure that everyone, regardless of schedule, is able to participate.
  • Communicative: teachers and administrators communicate once a week with great newsletters. Parent teacher conferences happen early in the year. Communicating with parents is our priority. 

We invite you to come see what an innovative education looks like at our next Information Session on Saturday, Jan. 12 at 10:00 am. Parents and children are welcome to join us for a morning full of hands-on activities. Spend time in our Makerspace, the Super Creator Imagination Lab (SCIL); and try your hand at some collaborative Project-Based Learning challenges. You can register here