Calhoun School

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The Calhoun School
433 West End Avenue, New York, NY 10024
New York City, New York
United States
Type Private
Established 1896
Founder Laura Jacobi
Grades 3's through 12th grade
Enrollment approx. 750
Campus Urban
Color(s) Green and White
Mascot Cougar
Affiliations NAIS
Lower School Location

160 West 74th Street

New York, NY 10023
Average Class Size 12 - 15
Student to Teacher Ratio 7:1

The Calhoun School is an independent, coeducational college preparatory school located in New York City's Upper West Side. Classes are offered for pre-school children, such as three-year-olds and four-year-olds, through 12th grade. It was founded in 1896, and currently has approximately 750 students enrolled in the lower, middle and upper schools.


The Calhoun School has a progressive education approach that values intellectual pursuit, creativity, diversity, and community involvement.


In 1896, The Calhoun School was founded by Laura Jacobi as the Jacobi School in a brownstone at 158–160 West 80th Street. Miss Jacobi came to America from Germany with the help of her uncle, Dr. Abraham Jacobi, professor of pediatrics at New York Medical College and Columbia. Through her uncle and her aunt, Miss Jacobi was exposed to a progressive circle committed to women's rights, community health and civil reform. Initially, Miss Jacobi began her program as a "brother-and-sister" school, counting among its first students the son and daughter of Franz Boas, one of the founders of American cultural anthropology. It gradually evolved into a girls' school, attracting the daughters of socially prominent Jewish families, including Peggy Guggenheim, the children of the Morgenthaus and the Strausses. The school's nonsectarian curriculum emphasized languages and history. Eleanor Steiner Gimbel '14 remembered Miss Jacobi's commitment to civil liberties and her "teaching of race understanding as one of the high points of her school days." In 1916, Laura Jacobi chose Mary Edwards Calhoun to succeed her as headmistress. A member of a Philadelphia Quaker family, Miss Calhoun was a former editor of the Women's Page at the Herald Tribune as well as a teacher at various schools before coming to The Jacobi School. Ella Cannon, a former employee with the National Women's Suffrage Publishing Company, was hired to teach economics and, in 1923, was named co-headmistress. The school was renamed after its beloved headmistress, Mary Calhoun, in 1924. In 1939, Miss Calhoun incorporated the school as a non-profit institution. She retired in 1942; Miss Levis continued as Head until her retirement in 1946, after which Elizabeth Parmelee and Beatrice Cosmey became co-headmistresses—remaining in that position until their retirement in 1969. Philip (Pem) E. McCurdy was selected by the Board to be the first male Head of School, and was given a mandate to guide Calhoun's transformation into a fully coeducational school (1971). Pem's initiatives were completed under the leadership of Eugene Ruth, who completed Calhoun's transformation to a progressive educational institution dedicated to "learner-centered instruction and independent learning" based on an understanding of "individual differences" in learning styles. The new building opened at 433 West End Avenue at 81st Street in the spring of 1975, and the first coed class graduated that June. A renovation in 2004 added five floors. The school offers a rigorous academic program.[1]


Calhoun has revamped its entire athletic program, thanks to a new full-size gym and fitness room, completed in September 2004 as part of a major renovation. The school offers an extensive physical education program that promotes team play and individual fitness. Among the special electives are pilates, weight training, and a Project Adventure facility that includes rock-climbing walls. Calhoun plays interscholastic sports as part of the New York City Athletic League (NYCAL), PSAL, and PSAA leagues. The Girls' Volleyball teams and Boys' Basketball teams are dominant forces in their respective leagues. Students also excel in track-and-field: in the last few years, their performance has taken them to the New York State Championships, where they've taken medals in the 100- and 400-meter races as well as the 4x100 meter relay.

Calhoun's most successful program was the Boy's Junior Varsity Basketball team. The team provided a great development for young athletes. Led by coaches Brian Peters and Richard Lin, the Boy's JV team was able to reach three finals in a four-year span—with the biggest accomplishment being the 2013 championship. No other Calhoun program was able to each three finals in four years.


The Calhoun School's 200 preschoolers, 3s through first graders, are taught at the Robert L. Beir Building, on West 74th Street between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenue, in a completely renovated five-story townhouse. The building houses one of Calhoun's two theaters, its own gym and rooftop garden, as well as large, bright classrooms, a library, an art/woodshop. and an outdoor play terrace.

Grades 2–12 are taught in the Main Building, located at 433 West End Avenue, at 81st Street. Originally completed in 1975, the building was designed by Costas Machlouzarides. The building is easy to spot because the façade once looked like the front of a television set. Calhoun prides itself on its free and open learning experience, and the building's architecture reflects this. Wide expanses of window help create a light, open environment. Instead of halls and classrooms, the first three academic floors are divided into classroom areas by bookshelves, dividers and flexible walls.

In September 2004, Calhoun completed a 4-year renovation of its main building. Four more stories were added, including the following:

  • A full-sized gym and weight room
  • A performing arts center with theater and rehearsal rooms
  • Three new, fully equipped science labs
  • A greatly expanded art studio with kiln, darkroom, and woodshop
  • Additional classrooms for language classes
  • An eco-friendly Green Roof Learning Center that also provides programmable space for educational purposes, light recreation, and the school's herb and vegetable garden (for the school's nutritious lunch program).

In September 2014, Calhoun completed a 3-month renovation project that included expansion of the first floor for a state-of-the-art kitchen facility and multi-purpose lunch room/events space; and renovation of the ground floor for the school's library resource center and offices.



Once called the television building because of its former façade, Calhoun's original building at 81st Street was completed in 1975 and designed by Costas Machlouzarides. In 2000, The Calhoun School hired FX Fowle to design a four-story addition, which was completed for the 2004 school year. DesignShare ([1]), a journal of educational facilities planning, called the four-floor addition a "courageous design," with special mention of the School's Green Roof as "an innovation in the architecture for learning." The Green Roof and FXFOWLE were named DesignShare's recipients of a 2007 Merit Award—one of only seven recipients worldwide to receive the award. In fact, the Green Roof has attracted international attention and acclaim, with architects and educators coming from as far away as Japan, Brazil, Italy, Ireland, and Great Britain to see how the school has taken a leadership position in green architecture and sustainability. Ten years later, in the summer of 2014, the school began another 3-month renovation project of the 81st Street building with FXFOWLE, to expand the interior of the first floor by enclosing an outdoor plaza. The result had a significant—and positive—impact on the face of the iconic building while maintaining the "overhang" effect that—when first built in the '70s—people claimed looked like a Brownie camera flash cube or a television set.

Performing arts[edit]

Calhoun's Mary Lea Johnson Performing Arts Center is used for student productions, assemblies, and school events, as well as for Calhoun's Performing Arts Series, open to the public. The yearly series hosts professional Children's Theater, Music Concerts, Dance, Documentary Films, and Town Hall Meetings and Lectures, all at nominal cost and all open to the public.[2] Students and faculty have the added benefit of meeting with many of these artists and guest speakers prior to the events, in class or specially arranged assembly programs.

Distinguished alumni[edit]


External links[edit]

  • [2] Official Calhoun Web site
  • [3] Admissions Office

Coordinates: 40°47′08″N 73°58′50″W / 40.78556°N 73.98056°W / 40.78556; -73.98056