Which School Will Pass the Obamas' Test?

By Valerie Strauss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 14, 2008

A conversation at a Starbucks on MacArthur Boulevard this week:

"So where are they going?" said one parent.

"Sidwell," answered another. "That's what I heard."

"Nope, I heard Maret has a lock," said a third.

To which the first parent responded: "What about GDS?"

It's the talk of the town, in coffee shops, workplaces and classrooms: Where will President-elect Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, decide to send 10-year-old daughter Malia and 7-year-old daughter Sasha to school when they move into the White House?

Those in the know believe the search process has been narrowed to three pricey and prestigious private schools that all have connections to the Obamas: Sidwell Friends School, Georgetown Day School and Maret School.

Michelle Obama thrilled the denizens of Sidwell and GDS by visiting on Monday -- she squeezed in a visit to the White House with her husband between schools -- and is believed to have made a stealth visit to the Maret campus in recent months. She had planned on visiting there Monday, too, but did not show up.

The future first lady and the girls are planning to visit at least two of the three schools next week, according to sources close to the process who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid angering the Obamas, who want to conduct the search in private.

"Nobody wants to risk antagonizing them," said an official at one of the schools who spoke only on condition of anonymity.

Officials at GDS, Maret and Sidwell would not comment about the visits, or even confirm that there were visits. Even many parents who send their children to these schools, as well as private consultants who help families find schools, wouldn't talk about the Washington school scene for this article. In this way, the politics of where the Obama girls will continue their education has become rather like the politics of the West Wing -- carried out through intense closed-door discussions, under great scrutiny, with various factions fighting for a slice of influence.

"In New York, it's all about money," said an official at one of the schools, who would not agree to be named. "Washington is about power and who you know."

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