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Posted at 01:12 PM ET, 08/25/2011

Why it’s called the ‘School Without Walls’

The fabulous new School Without Walls library (Marvin Joseph - WASHINGTON POST)
Lots of guffaws on Twitter in the last 24 hours over the news that the School Without Walls, the very well regarded high school in Foggy Bottom, is the only D.C. Public School to remain closed after Tuesday’s earthquake, due to masonry damage.

Yes, yes, very funny. But why is it a “School Without Walls”?

A quick history: The school was founded in 1971, part of a concept in urban education at the time to “use the city as a classroom,” immediately patterned after Philadelphia’s Parkway School and the Chicago Public High School for Metropolitan Studies. Here is the school concept, as explained in a Post story published upon the school’s March 1971 opening:

The idea behind the school, based in a small suite of offices on the 12th floor of a building at 1411 K St. NW, is that there are better ways of educating than simply putting students and teachers off by themselves in a school building every day. Instead the “school without walls” intends to use the District of Columbia, with its museums, government offices and universities, as its classroom. The city’s people — its scholars, small businessmen, white and blue-collar workers — will supplement the professional teaching staff.

Washington’s version of the “school without walls” was considered “more conservative” than its peer alernative schools, but it has been the longest-lasting and most successful. Still enrolled by application, it eventually became very much a school with walls — moving into the Webster School for Pregnant Girls at 10th and H streets NW, and then to the Magruder School, next to the Sumner School at 17th and M streets NW.

It later moved into the old Grant School in Foggy Bottom, where these days it has very nice walls indeed, after a renovation and addition was completed in 2009.

Some old Post clips:

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