School Without Walls Celebrates 50 Years

President LeBlanc and the D.C. mayor spoke at the half-century anniversary of the groundbreaking public school in Foggy Bottom.

Image of Thomas LeBlanc at podium during School Without Walls' celebration.
GW President Thomas J. LeBlanc spoke at School Without Walls' 50th anniversary celebration. (GW Today)
May 14, 2021

By Ruth Steinhardt

The School Without Walls celebrated its 50th anniversary at a banner-raising ceremony where students, teachers, alumni and local partners, including D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and George Washington University President Thomas J. LeBlanc, applauded the high school that has been ranked the best in the Washington, D.C., public school system.

Established in 1971, School Without Walls (SWW) is lauded for its nontraditional educational model that stresses critical thinking, creativity and community engagement.

GW has partnered with SWW since 1980 on programs including facilities sharing, teaching opportunities for GW faculty and graduate students, and educational offerings for SWW teachers and students. In fact, student speaker Stephen Mirabello, vice president of the SWW class of 2021, listed taking foreign policy classes at GW as among the most formative experiences of his high school career.

Notable among GW’s collaborations with the school is the GW Early College Program (GWECP), which gives SWW students the opportunity to take a full-time course load at GW and earn a GW associate’s degree while also completing high school.

 “As we at GW commemorate our bicentennial year this year, we look forward to continuing to build upon our proud tradition of establishing this and other special relationships and partnerships with our D.C. community,” Dr. LeBlanc said at the event held outside the school on G Street NW. “Our collaboration with School Without Walls is a prime example of how our institutions can work together to improve access to education and quality of life for D.C. residents. We’re excited to see what the future of our collaboration brings.”

Ms. Bowser declared last Wednesday “School Without Walls Day” in Washington, D.C.

“I applaud School Without Walls’ insistence on preparing students to be good global citizens with their studies laser focused on social justice and equity, as well as a keen understanding of our shared history,” Ms. Bowser said. “Never was this focus more critical than in the past year, during both a worldwide public health pandemic and a global reckoning for racial justice.”

Ms. Bowser also expressed admiration for the GWECP, which she said “has got to be the best deal going.”

Other speakers at the ceremony included, among others, D.C. Public School Chancellor Lewis Ferebee, D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson and D.C. Councilmember Janeese Lewis George (D-Ward 4), a proud SWW alumna.

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