Updated: Jun 8

Dear WSG Community,

We have watched the current events with sadness in our hearts.

As a Catholic school community focused on justice and equity for our students, we work each day to help our students work towards their dreams for their lives. We know that each student is a child of God. We also know that our students may be among the most underserved and overlooked in society. For over 20 years, WSG has remained true to the mission of our school - to serve those girls in SE Washington DC; young Black and Brown girls. Since our founding, our school has been one where their voices are heard, where they are affirmed every day for who they are, and where we know they have the potential to enact change in their communities and the world.

We believe these girls matter and our commitment has always been to amplify their voices, and to support them in becoming the strongest versions of themselves.

While we want each student to feel safe, and to confidently know her worth, we also know it is hard to feel safe when you constantly see people who look like you experiencing violence at the hands of those who are supposed to protect our communities. It is hard to know your worth when discourse focuses more on the financial cost of property damage than the human cost of a lost life that could have been your father, your sister, or your cousin.


It is hard to experience joy when you so rarely see justice.

At WSG our daily morning prayer reminds us of the need to pray for others to join us on this journey.

We pray:

To forgive: that we might answer violence and hatred with love and compassion;

To reverence others: that we might see and honor God’s presence in all people; and

To cherish education and the exercise of our civil liberties: that we might work to bring about a peaceful and just world.


We can prepare our girls to enter diverse high schools and we can help them build emotional resilience. We can, and do, challenge our own biases so we can be better educators for them. But a WSG education does not change how strangers judge our students. It does not erase our society’s stereotypes of Black women, it does not guarantee that those they encounter will recognize their excellence. Our work is important. But it is not enough. Our girls deserve a better world.


During this time of unrest, we feel it is important to state that we remain committed to our school mission and core values. In addition,

  • We stand with those who are exercising their civil liberties to bring about a peaceful and just world.

  • We denounce racism of any kind, at any time.

  • We are appalled by the continued unjustified use of force by police within Black communities.

  • We pray for and with families who have suffered unimaginable loss.


We pray for a future where everyone in our country feels safe, is valued equally, and can experience joy that is uninterrupted by injustice.


In the Spirit of Courageous Women,




Dr. Beth Reaves

President






Maureen B. McCarty

Chair, Board of Trustees





As the COVID-19 crisis has deepened so quickly throughout the US this week, the questions we have continued to ask ourselves at WSG are "how can we support our girls when we can’t be with them right now? How can we continue their education, be the friendly faces they see each day, and be a continual partner with their family, during incredibly challenging circumstances? How do we provide the reassurances that children need during this time to let them know it will all be okay, even when we feel so unsure ourselves?"


Every school is wrestling with their own decision-making on meeting the needs of their students, given their own school culture, climate and capabilities. For WSG, we wanted to keep our school mission in the forefront of our decision making, trying to do as much as we could to support our students and their families knowing the important role that WSG plays for so many.


As a result, some of our key decisions were:


Learning Continuity - To the extent possible, we want to keep students connected to their teachers and to each other during this time. Virtual classrooms are video enabled, allowing our students to see their teachers, ask questions and chat with friends. To accomplish this, we’ve continued to reach out to families to ensure students have appropriate technology at home, and if not, we provided it. It is important for children to feel the same supportive community around them, and we know our teachers are a source of that stability.


Structure and Consistency - Our virtual school day starts with student-led morning prayer, much like the day on campus. Students follow a schedule set by their teachers, with specific times to check in and office hours when they can be in live conversation with their teachers to get help. Classroom sessions allow them to see and interact with each other, and the girls have received information on classroom expectations while online. Consequences for not following those in the online classroom? A teacher may “mute” a student, allowing them to still see the classroom activities, but not interact, if unable to constructively participate without distracting others. We are all still finding how to adapt to a new classroom and learning experience, and yet the expectation that students will positively participate in class remains the same. Teachers and/or our school counselors may connect with any families individually when there seems to be prolonged difficulty for any student.


Checking In and Feedback - Each day, there has been a survey sent along to teachers to understand what is going well, what isn’t going well. We’ve held an open parent webinar to hear their thoughts and followed up at the end of the virtual week with a survey for them as well. We’ve tried to diagnose and solve as many technology problems as we can and parents have indicated they appreciate the support for them at home. The girls are their own best advocates as well! They’ve emailed their teachers, raised their hands virtually and indicated when they aren’t able to follow along. We’ve made changes to adapt to the feedback, and will continue to do so, understanding that hearing from students and families on how this is going on their end is an important indicator of our effectiveness.


Creating Community - Perhaps the biggest challenge has been identifying ways to recreate the WSG community that we all experience when we are not physically together. Starting the day with our Morning Prayer is an important part of that, as it mimics prayer at school. Hearing the students’ voices leading our prayer and seeing that there are over 100 others logged in at the same time to participate, is so warming to me in my home, and gives us all a sense of our community all together at the same time. Sharing the commitment to our students, providing opportunities for students to interact with each and their teachers, letting families know that we are there for help, supporting and learning from each other as educators, are all reflective of our WSG community and our core values of goodness, generosity and faith.


This crisis has forced us as educators to focus on being flexible in understanding how we might best serve our students now and to determine what is most important each day. What they are learning curriculum-wise and how that paces through the next few weeks may need to adapt as we assess the effectiveness of our distance learning, assessing what has not gone well. We hope that we will get back on campus with our girls during this school year, however, that is a big unknown at this point. We are proud of what we have done to provide for their education in the meantime. And we also know that at this time among the most important lessons we can deliver to our students is that WSG, and all the many adults who comprise our school, cares for them and remains committed to their learning, even during the most difficult circumstances.

Women’s History Month presents the perfect opportunity to pay tribute to all the many women in our school history that helped create the school we enjoy today. WSG was formed in 1997, the brainchild of a group of women who were inspired by women in history to serve, nurture and educate young girls. Southeast Washington, D.C. was chosen as the location for WSG: the co-founders felt it essential for WSG to be present where girls were most underserved educationally. WSG was founded on the premise of educational equity - acknowledging that girls East of the River should have the same opportunities, hopes and dreams as young girls everywhere else in DC, and deserve to have the education needed to help them reach their goals.


Our co-founders recognized the importance of values-based education, and selected three "Founding Spirits" that would serve as knowable and accessible examples of those values in the years to come. To this day, our Founding Spirits continue to shape and form our program. Cornelia Connelly (Society of Holy Child Jesus) promoted an approach to education based on trust and reverence for every human being. Her schools encourage children to develop to their full potential, based on her firm belief that all fields of study contribute to the development of that potential. Mary McLeod Bethune (National Council of Negro Women) believed as an educator and civil rights activist that achieving a quality education would be an important equalizer between races. And Claudine Thevenet (Religious of Jesus and Mary) was devoted to providing young women with opportunities for work that would imbue both economic autonomy and a sense of dignity. It is these real-life courageous women in history that led our own co-founders Sr. Mary Bourdon, Ms. Jennifer Gibbs Phillips and others to design a school that weaves together perspectives from each founding spirit to form our unique school identity.


From our humble beginnings in the basement of an apartment building in Southeast, D.C. over 20 years ago, to now on two campuses serving over 125 girls, the vision of a school inspired by famous women in history continues. Cornelia Connelly urges us to provide an academic program recognizing the whole child, which is evidenced by our commitment to social-emotional learning and a wide range of out-of-classroom experiences and learning opportunities for our students. From Mary McLeod Bethune we know it is important for our students, all young girls of color, to be positively engaged in school and that they see themselves represented in their education: in our classrooms, hallways, books in the library, and throughout the curriculum. And from Claudine Thevenet we are reminded to elevate the voices of those who are often overlooked, encouraging our girls to advocate for themselves and their learning.


We have a small “pop-up museum” on our campus at THEARC this month, with artifacts on our Founding Spirits generously loaned to us by each organization. Looking at the materials shows how Washington School for Girls is a perfect example of a school where women in history are still evident in the school today - and continue to influence how we look to our future. With our daily focus on supporting the development of future courageous women, we are inspired to build on the vision of our Founding Spirits and the co-founders of the school. We take all of what we’ve learned from these women and our 20 years of education on our journey to ensure WSG continues to be an important place for girls in the years to come.


Update: Since WSG will be closed for the remainder of March, the "pop-up museum" will stay on display when we return to school.

WSG is currently operating remotely. Learn more about our COVID-19 Response HERE

Washington School for Girls

THEARC Campus / 1901 Mississippi Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20020 / Phone: 202-678-1113 / Fax: 202-678-1114

The VIEW Campus / 1604 Morris Road SE, Washington, DC 20020 / Phone: 202-678-1714 / Fax: 202-678-5422

EIN: 52-2031849