Lowell School (Washington, D.C.)

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Lowell School
alt text
Washington, D.C.
Type Independent school
Established 1965
Head of school Debbie Gibbs
Enrollment 300+
Color(s) Green, white
Mascot Leopard
Information (202) 577-2000
Publications The Lowell Ledger (Bi-annual Newspaper)
In the Loop (Quarterly in-depth stories)
The Lowell Loop (Weekly e-Newsletter)

Lowell School is an independent, co-educational preschool through 8th grade school located in the Colonial Village neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

Curriculum and teaching[edit]

In the Pre-Primary School, students explore the wonders of the natural world, engage in creative expression and gain the skills they need to flourish as learners. The program helps children realize that they are thinkers, information seekers, problem solvers, and risk takers. They realize that school is a place they can go to find out more. They ask questions and feel at ease exploring ideas and materials that lead to the discovery of connections and relationships, as well as to the comparison, analysis, and synthesis of information. Teachers act as facilitators and guides, maximizing children's opportunities for learning and helping them acquire strong foundational skills at a developmentally appropriate pace.

Lowell's Primary School curriculum integrates academics, arts, technology, and physical education, and uses Essential Themes as its organizing principle. These powerful themes or concepts, such as Patterns, Interdependence, Identity, and Systems, generate overarching essential questions to shape and unify each grade level's curriculum. They provide a deep and rich context for inquiry and learning, and encourage asking questions, discovering connections and relationships, and comparing, analyzing and synthesizing knowledge.

Lowell's Middle School program is for students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. The middle school gives students new opportunities to make choices in their learning, set goals, and develop leadership skills. Students also find out more about themselves as learners and individuals before they have to change schools. Students in the Middle School study math, science, humanities, Spanish, art, dance, music and physical education in addition to participating in advisories and after school sports and music. Lowell aims for students to graduate with a strong foundation in core subjects, a toolbox of good study skills and habits, and the confidence that will inspire them to tackle new challenges.

A strong social curriculum used in all three divisions, complements the academic curriculum and helps students develop interpersonal skills, multicultural understanding, and community engagement.

Lowell faculty couple innovative, progressive teaching methods with more traditional "tried and true" practices. The classrooms are purposeful, focused settings for learning. Students are prepared academically, socially, and emotionally to thrive wherever they continue their education.

School history[edit]

Lowell was founded in 1965 by Judith Grant and Susan Semple. It began as nursery school in the basement of Cleveland Park Congregational Church at 34th and Lowell Streets, N.W. The annual tuition was only $325.[1] Gail Shandler joined the Lowell staff in 1966 and went on to become the school's first director. In 1975 the school added a kindergarten. Growing enrollment caused the school to move in 1978 to the Sixth Presbyterian Church on 16th and Kennedy Streets, N.W., making it one of the first independent schools to be located on the east side of Rock Creek Park.

The 1980s were busy years at Lowell. In 1983 1st grade was added and in 1984, in addition to adding 2nd grade, the Parents Association was formed and remains a cornerstone of the school today. In 1985 Annual Giving was instituted in order to fund financial aid and ensure that the school remained financially accessible. The Lowell library opened in 1986 with 400 volumes, far fewer than the 10,000 volumes on the shelves today. In 1987 Lowell expanded to 3rd grade, and a year later Gail Shandler resigned and Abigail Wiebenson, formerly the head of the lower school at Georgetown Day School, became the second head of school. Finally, in 1989 Lowell purchased the Himmelfarb mansion at 16th and Decatur Streets, N.W. and moved into its own building in October of that year.

In the 1990s Lowell was accredited by the Association of Independent Maryland Schools, moved to its present Kalmia campus and expanded through 5th grade. In 2001 the first 6th grade class was added and the first 8th grade class began in 2012. Lowell celebrated its 40th Anniversary in 2005-06 and in 2007 appointed its third head of school, Debbie Gibbs, who had been a longstanding administrator at Marin Country Day School in California.

Expansion plans[edit]

Lowell has expanded to include a middle school, having added 7th grade in 2011 and 8th grade in 2012. In the fall of 2010 the 6th grade moved to the Parkside Building and has subsequently been joined by 7th and 8th grade classes. Although Parkside was renovated in 2010 to include updated classrooms and an art studio for the new Middle School, it is Lowell's goal to completely renovate the building and expand its Middle School program. The new space will include a black-box theater, two science labs, a band room, a library and technology center, and a living roof. This major renovation and expansion is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2013.


Lowell School occupies a large and historic campus with four buildings, two playgrounds, a field, and a stream. The main building contains classrooms, the Pre-Primary School rooms, a gym, a creative movement space, a swimming pool, a technology lab, a library and Pre-Primary Book Nook, two art workshops, and a dance studio. The second building, Parkside, which is next to Rock Creek Park, holds a science lab, art studio and gallery, Spanish and math classrooms, music rooms, and a theater. This building houses the Middle School program and will undergo major renovation in the summer of 2013 (see Expansion Plans above). Marjorie Webster House, another building bordering Kalmia Road, houses various administrative offices, including the Admissions Office, and a creative woodshop.

The 8-acre (32,000 m2) campus bordering Rock Creek Park has a long history. Records show that the property was a working farm called Clouin Course in the 1840s.[2] Further evidence of its history still exists on the campus: a 150-year-old spring house with a small pond beside it.[3] Today the 8 acres (32,000 m2) and the stream which the school daylighted soon after acquiring the property are used as an outdoor classroom where students learn how to grow vegetables, and observe and care for the environment.

In 1928, the property became The Marjorie Webster School of Expression and Physical Education, which later became known as Marjorie Webster Junior College, a two-year, private junior college for women.[4] The school operated until 1971. Six years later, the property was purchased by the United States Fire Administration to house the new National Fire Academy.

In 1978, while the property was still vacant, a more suitable location was found for the National Fire Academy and other elements of the U.S. Fire Administration. The property was subsequently transferred to Gallaudet University, which made it a satellite campus.[5] In 1997, the property was acquired by Lowell School. The buildings were once again renovated, and the school moved in at the start of the 1999 school year.


Lowell students in the 6th through 8th grades participate in Electives. At the beginning of each semester, students select their top three choices from a list of many different types of classes. The Middle School teachers often teach these options, and the elective classes meet once a week.

There have been many different elective classes, including Public Art, Creative Writing, Newspaper, Stitch and Stir Fry, Math Games, Public Speaking, Wikipedia Writing and more. Electives are fun because students get the privilege of choosing a subject that they are interested in and to learn about in cross-age groupings.


Matriculation of Lowell Sixth Graders from 2001 to 2009
This graph shows the ten most frequently attended schools by Lowell School graduating sixth graders

A one-year snapshot, Lowell sixth grade matriculation in the year 2008.

Matriculation of Lowell Sixth Graders in 2008
This graph shows the ten most frequently attended schools by Lowell School graduating sixth graders in 2008


  1. ^ Lowell School: The First Thirty Years, self-published booklet, August 1995.
  2. ^ Legal Description of Property prepared in connection with sale of property from Gallaudet College to Lowell School, 1997.
  3. ^ Letter from Adrienne Coleman, Superintendent, Rock Creek Park to Lydia Gillman, Lowell School, July 16, 2001.
  4. ^ See Baist's Real Estate Atlas Surveys of Washington, D.C., Plan 37 1937, 1954 (Washington, D.C.: Wm. E. and H.V. Baist).
  5. ^ Celebrating 30 Years of Service, the Creation of the National Emergency Training Center, United States Fire Administration, 2009.

Coordinates: 38°59′07″N 77°02′19″W / 38.9852°N 77.0386°W / 38.9852; -77.0386