Open Window School

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Open Window School
Open Window School Bellevue, WA.JPG
Bellevue, Washington
United States
Type Independent (NWAIS Accredited)
Established 1983
Locale Suburban
Head of School Jeff Stroebel
Grades K-8
Number of students 320
School color(s) Cardinal and Black
Religious Affiliation None

Open Window School is an independent school for students in Kindergarten through Eighth Grade who have been formally identified as intellectually gifted. It is located in Bellevue, Washington, United States and accredited by the Northwest Association of Independent Schools (NWAIS).

The school offers an academic program featuring depth and challenge, emphasizing student-driven innovation, collaboration, as well as critical and creative thinking. Relevant leadership opportunities and real-life applications of classroom concepts ignite learning and connections to a global society. The school places equal emphasis on academic challenge and social and emotional support, promoting positive social skills, emotional resiliency, respect for others and collaboration.[1] It is located at 6128 168th Pl SE, Bellevue. Set atop Cougar Mountain, its campus covers 6.7 acres and has expansive views of the Cascades and the Seattle area.

Open Window currently has 320 enrolled students.[2] The lower school student-teacher ratio is 9:1, with an average of 18 students and 2 teachers in each classroom. The middle school, covering grades 5-8, enrolls approximately 125 students. Prospective families may contact the school's Admissions Office for application and tour information. The school's website has extensive information on the school and is updated frequently.

In addition to the regular school program, Open Window hosts a popular summer program which runs for five weeks beginning in early July. The summer program is for students entering kindergarten through seventh grade and is open to students who do not attend during the school year. Information and registration is available through the school's website in early February.

School History[edit]

Open Window School was founded in 1983 by Mary Ann Simpson and Jean Booker to serve intellectually gifted preschoolers. In 1985, it was incorporated and expanded to include an elementary program. Initially, Open Window was housed in a church basement in Bellevue. After several years, it relocated to the former Lake Heights Elementary School in Newport Hills, Bellevue, where it shared the rented facility with the Lake Heights YMCA.

Since its inception, Open Window has been dedicated to nurturing children's social and emotional needs, intellectual curiosity, creativity and capacity for critical thinking along with advanced academic skills. At the heart of its philosophy is the conviction that its students are "children first, gifted second."

Founding Head Mary Ann Simpson departed in 1992 and was succeeded for two years by Nicole Abu-Haydar who was followed by Ed Brignall and then Joan Cheifeitz. After this period of administrative changes, Jean Augustine, an experienced and highly respected former Head of Epiphany School, provided a year of strong, stabilizing interim leadership. A professional search for a permanent Head of School in 1997 resulted in the appointment of Wilder Dominick from the Seattle Country Day School. Ms. Dominick served for 15 years of tremendous growth as Open Window developed into one of the Eastside's leading independent schools. During her tenure, the school devoted great effort to strengthening its curriculum, finances, business policies, and governance practices.

The stability, success, and increasing demand for the Open Window program emphasized the need to build a permanent home. In 1998, the school purchased 6.7 acres on Cougar Mountain between Bellevue, Newcastle, and Issaquah in the Lakemont neighborhood and began to work with the Miller Hull Partnership to design a new campus. The property was purchased from Ted and Ann Leber, who had farmed the land for five decades, and the school decided to retain the original farmhouse and use it for administrative offices. The school's library learning commons is named in honor of the Leber's. Due to neighborhood opposition, campus construction was delayed several years; however, in September 2004, Open Window moved to its new campus and enrollment immediately expanded 52%, from 163 to 248 students, pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.

Once established on the new campus, the school began realizing another strategic initiative, the creation of a middle school to complement the elementary program. To fulfill its mission of serving gifted students, the Board of Trustees and administration concluded that the ideal configuration of the school was a kindergarten through eighth grade program. Consequently, it eliminated the pre-kindergarten program in 2008-2009 and began managing to an ultimate model of two sections per grade level, kindergarten through eighth grade. Open Window is the only Northwest Association of Independent Schools (NWAIS) accredited K-8 independent school on the Eastside designed to serve the needs of gifted learners. Open Window is viewed as one of the Pacific Northwest's leaders in the field of Gifted Education. The school features information and resources pertaining to Gifted Education on its website.

Open Window's middle school division, initially known as Vista Academy, welcomed its first sixth grade class of 11 students in 2007 and graduated its first eighth grade class in 2010. By 2011, the middle school had grown to over 100 students and included fifth through eighth grades. The success of the middle school necessitated facility expansion including additional classrooms, common areas, and the development of outdoor play areas. Construction was completed in September 2011. In 2012, the separate name for the middle school was discontinued, and the school changed its colors to cardinal and black with a new logo reinforcing Open Window School's K-8 identity. Upon the retirement of Wilder Dominick following the 2011-12 school year, Jeff Stroebel became Head of School. Mr. Stroebel had previously served as a teacher, division head, and Head of School at two schools for gifted children in the Midwest.

Guided by a single mission, the school is organized into lower and middle school divisions. Lower school consists of kindergarten through fourth grade in homeroom classes with a lead homeroom teacher and full-time associate teacher. The middle school is organized by academic disciplines for grades five through eight. In addition to core academic programs, students receive art, drama, music, physical education, technology and Spanish language instruction. From kindergarten through eighth grade, students are encouraged to be innovators and apply their knowledge to solve real world problems.

Open Window is fully accredited by the Northwest Association of Independent Schools and is an approved non-public school by the State of Washington. Open Window is a member of the National Association of Independent Schools as well as the Washington Federation of Independent Schools.


Open Window is well known for its use of technology to enhance student learning. This extends from a state of the art Innovation and Technology Lab to the school's use of social media. Innovation and Technology Director Adrienne Gifford was named Northwest Council for Computer Education (NCCE) Technology Leader of the Year in 2016. In early 2014, a group of five seventh graders won the highest honor, "Best in Nation" in the second Verizon Innovative App Challenge for the app they created. Their winning app is named HikeAbout, and it is available for downloading in the Google Play Store. In January 2015, a project by sixth grader Sydney Vernon won first prize in the Future Engineers 3D Printing Space Challenge. Vernon designed a Space Planter in the school's Innovation and Technology Lab to be 3D printed on the International Space Station.[3] A group of five middle school students won the 2016 Verizon App Challenge Best in Region Award, designing an App to serve patients suffering from neurological diseases.[4]

During the 2015-16 school year, Open Window was one of 22 schools in the United States and Canada invited to participate in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program. Working in collaborative teams, fourth through eighth grade students designed microgravity experiments and an outside panel of researchers chose one of the seventh grade experiments to be conducted on the International Space Station.[5]

Open Window School's students have won many other awards in recent years. In 2013, 7th grader Owen Benda won the Washington State Geography Bee. In both 2013 and 2014, a graduating eighth grader was recognized as "Bellevue's Outstanding Middle School Student" by the City of Bellevue's Youth Link Program. Three students swept the top three places in the King County 2015 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Essay Contest in 2015. In 2016, the school's debate team was named "Best in the Northwest" at the Western Regional Middle School Debate Tournament in Sacramento, California, and eighth grader Ayush Noori was a finalist in the National Spelling Bee.

Athletics & Extra-Curricular Programs[edit]

The school's athletic programs currently include cross country, golf, tennis, basketball, soccer, Ultimate Frisbee, track and field, and volleyball. The Girls Volleyball team completed an undefeated season in 2014. The school mascot is Rufus the Bobcat. Eighth graders have the opportunity to be the Bobcat at various school events. In addition to athletics, the school offers students the opportunity to compete in chess, debate, Model United Nations, and robotics.


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 47°32′52″N 122°06′53″W / 47.5477°N 122.1146°W / 47.5477; -122.1146