Grace is a truly warm, diverse, and academically rigorous school. The teachers are some of the most dedicated you will find anywhere. This school offers a comparable education to other private schools in the area, but at a reduced price to encourage diversity, and with a far more welcoming atmosphere. Our child just graduated and we miss out Grace Family terribly, but he is well prepared for a very demanding 6th grade curriculum at his new school.
Although Grace has weathered some challenges and transitions, over the past few years, our child's experience there has improved every year. A very highly regarded new Head of School is set to come on board in July 2012 and the teachers we have direct experience with range from solid to inspired. Specials and specialist teachers are very strong. Small class sizes allow for individualized instruction and a lot of flexibility and hands-on experience. The other kids and families are nice, down-to-earth people and the community is warm and welcoming.
Like nearly every private school in the DC region, Grace has implemented some changes to better position itself to weather an economic recession while retaining a strong financial position. One of the changes made was to temporarily (for next year) increase the class size by 2 students, from 18 to 20. As a result, a few grades (not all grades!) will have 1 'section' as opposed to 2 sections. Some parents prefer this, some don't. Either way Grace's programs (art, language, phys ed, etc.) aren't affected, and its admissions criteria is stronger than ever, even when it might be tempting to accept every applicant that comes in the door. So, ask lots of questions. And ask them at each school you visit.
If you are considering Grace, be sure to ask a lot of questions. Many things have changed recently. Inquire how many children will be in your child's class (the class size limit recently changed) and how many classes there will be per grade. The school has lost many families recently. Some of the other glowing reviews may not reflect the current state of affairs. This school has some very nice famlies and some nice teachers, but be sure you are clear about what you are getting. Don't take anything for granted.
My husband and I consider the academic program outstanding, with the development of critical thinking skills the goal of day-to-day learning NOT standardized test preparation. We could not have imagined a more positive school community for our family. Grace really lives by its Mission and Philosophy, and the families are very down to earth for an independent school. We are very pleased that the school is expanding to 8th grade!