Barrie School

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Barrie School
13500 Layhill Road
Silver Spring, Maryland, 20906
United States
Coordinates 39°4′N 77°2′W / 39.067°N 77.033°W / 39.067; -77.033
Funding type Private
Religious affiliation(s) Non-sectarian
Established 1932
Head of School Charlie Ablemann
Faculty ~70
Grades Primary through Grade 12
Enrollment ~300 (grades PreK-12)
Campus ~16 buildings
Campus size 45 acres (180,000 m2)
Color(s) Blue & Gold
Team name Mustangs

The Barrie School is an independent school for all grades of pre-collegiate education located in the Layhill neighborhood of Silver Spring, Maryland, outside of Washington, D.C..

Barrie School has three divisions located on the same campus. The Lower School, which serves children from age 18 months through fifth grade, is Montessori based. The Middle and Upper Schools are college preparatory, however, teachers typically favor experiential learning over lectures. The students and faculty are on a first-name basis and the environment is one of openness and mutual respect.

The student population of around 300 students enjoys a green campus, with two new modern buildings, a pool, and two ponds. With an average class size of around 18, teachers can integrate the natural setting into the curriculum through hands-on experiments or holding class outside.

Barrie has an equestrian team for both the Middle and Upper Schools. Both teams compete on the weekends. The Equestrian Director, Sue Wentzel, just started working for Barrie this year. The riding team was awarded 3rd place last year out of multiple teams.


The school was founded in 1932 by Frances Littman Seldin[1] as a preschool called the Peter Pan School,[2] located at 1604 Park Road NW in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of the District of Columbia.[3] A native of New York, Seldin was a graduate of Columbia University.[1]

After unsuccessfully attempting to move to 1615 Manchester Lane NW in the Brightwood neighborhood, the school moved to 801 Fern Street NW in the Takoma neighborhood in 1939.[4] A zoning variance to establish a school in the residential neighborhood,[5] which was opposed by the Takoma Park Citizens Association,[6] was granted by the District of Columbia Board of Zoning Adjustment.[4] The new location was a 17-acre (0.069 km2) urban campus. The name was changed to Barrie School when upper grade classes were added, memorializing author J. M. Barrie, creator of the Peter Pan story.

Barrie was described by Mrs. Seldin as a progressive, country day school, directly influenced by the work of John Dewey, Maria Montessori, Alfred Adler, and Anna Freud. It was an anomaly among private schools in the Washington, DC community for much of its history because of Mrs. Seldin's then controversial beliefs about integration, creating a socioeconomically diverse population, and her decision to offer a year-round program and extended hours to serve working parents. Although the name Montessori was rarely used in describing Barrie during those years, the program was heavily influenced by Maria Montessori's philosophy and program, including practical life,integrated learning and project-based collaborative learning, multiple age class groups, and a culture of partnership between students, parents, and staff.

In the 1950s, Mrs. Seldin purchased a 45-acre (180,000 m2) country estate on Layhill Road in rural Montgomery County, Maryland. The school began operating there in 1958.[7] The new site was added to continue the school's mission of teaching in a natural setting. The Barrie Day Camp moved to the property. In 1976, the Fern Place campus was closed and the remaining Middle and Lower School classes were moved to the Layhill Road property, with room for 265 students.[8] The Upper School (Grades 9-12) was closed from 1974 through 1982 as a result of Mrs. Seldin's death and the need to sell the Fern Place campus to cover estate taxes, and a building moratorium imposed on new construction in Montgomery County during that period that created a cap on enrollment at the Layhill Road campus. The high school was reopened in 1982 in time for the 50th anniversary of Barrie School's founding was celebrated with the reopening of the Upper School in the former Argyle Junior High public school building on Bel Pré Road in Silver Spring, Maryland. That year, Barrie's Upper School was formally recognized by the American Montessori Society (AMS) as the first Montessori High School in the United States. In that year the Institute for Advanced Montessori Studies was authorized by the American Montessori Society and Maryland State Commission of Higher Education to offer the first formal teacher preparation for secondary Montessori educators (ages 12–18). Classes were held until new buildings on the Layhill Road campus were completed in the summer of 1991, bringing the Primary, Lower and Upper Elementary, Middle, and Upper School students together on one campus again.[8]

In 1980, the Institute for Advanced Montessori Studies, offering graduate-level teacher education programs, was founded on Barrie School’s Layhill Road campus to provide bridge between the traditional and Montessori schools of education.[9] The training programs have been completed by individuals from all across the United States and as far away as Canada, Trinidad, China, and Korea.[10]


  1. ^ a b "Mrs. Seldin, Founder of Area School". The Washington Post. March 17, 1971. p. B6. 
  2. ^ "Barrie School History". Barrie School. Archived from the original on July 2, 2014. 
  3. ^ Haworth, Mary (August 19, 1936). "Wife Wonders What to Do About Husband Who Continuously Compliments Other Women and Criticizes Her". Mary Haworth's Mail. The Washington Post. p. X12. 
  4. ^ a b "Zone Board Clears Way For ADA Job: Anacostia Slum Clearance Plans Are Approved to Permit Project". The Washington Post. July 20, 1939. p. 15. 
  5. ^ "7 Zone Appeals To Be Heard Wednesday: Include Petitions to Start 3 Educational Institutions Here". The Washington Post. June 4, 1939. p. 14. 
  6. ^ "Takoma Citizens Oppose Rezoning". The Washington Post. June 6, 1939. p. 15. 
  7. ^ Austern, Helen (September 14, 1958). "Landon School Is on the Beam With Television". The Washington Post. p. F7. 
  8. ^ a b The Barrie School Student/Parent Handbook, 2005-2006 Academic Year, 2005, retrieved January 4, 2006 from
  9. ^ "The Barrie School History". 2004. Retrieved December 28, 2005. 
  10. ^ "Barrie's Institute for Advanced Montessori Studies Marks Its 10th Anniversary". Barrie Magazine 1 (2). Summer 1990. p. 18. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 39°4′N 77°2′W / 39.067°N 77.033°W / 39.067; -77.033