Grace Episcopal Day School was founded in the summer of 1960 by the women of Grace Episcopal Church as an outreach ministry of their Silver Spring parish. That first year, Grace enrolled approximately 24 three- and four-year old children in a nursery program, housed in an extra room above the Parish Hall on Georgia Avenue. Mrs. Jane Wood served as the school’s first Head.
After a few years, a kindergarten was established, and Grace expanded again between 1969 and 1974, when Grades 1-6 were added to the Preschool and Kindergarten programs. For one year Grace offered Grades 7-8, while its founders helped to establish St. Andrew’s Episcopal School.
To provide more space for a burgeoning enrollment, a lease was negotiated with the Montgomery County school system in 1983 for use of the former Larchmont public school building in Kensington. Grades 1-6 were relocated gradually to the Connecticut Avenue site, while the Preschool and Kindergarten classes remained at the Silver Spring campus. Upon Mrs. Wood’s retirement in 1986, Mrs. Carol Hjortsberg was chosen to be Grace’s second Head of School.
It was largely through Mrs. Hjortsberg’s vision and dedication that, in the spring of 1999, Grace was finally able to purchase the 11-acre Kensington site, thus securing a permanent home for the upper grades and enabling it to move forward in other areas where progress depended on resolving facility issues. Almost immediately, a series of improvements was launched to make the buildings and grounds at Kensington, as well as those at Silver Spring, more comfortable and inviting.
The appointment of Mrs. Carol Franek as Grace’s third Head of School in the spring of 2000 ushered in a new era of leadership. Under her direction, there was further progress, including additional improvements to the facilities at both campuses, a comprehensive review and enhancement of the academic program, and expansion of the academic program.
After one and half years with Ms. Helen R. Marter as interim head, and one year with Ms. Donna Harshman as acting head, Grace announced the hiring of its fourth permanent Head of School, Mr. Malcolm C. Lester in January of 2012. He served until 2016. Succeeding Mr. Lester, who increased enrollment and consolidated the school into one campus in Kensington, Jennifer Danish became the fith permanent Head of School in July 2016.
Today, 56 years after its founding, Grace Episcopal Day School has grown from a neighborhood preschool to one of the area’s most well-regarded independent schools. The school is now located on one campus and serves children from Preschool (age 3) to Grade 5. The operating budget supports a rich program of traditional academics matched with classes in art, music, foreign language, science, technology, and physical education.
As we face the challenges of educating children in the 21st century, much of what is most wonderful about our school community remains unchanged. We are still rooted in the Episcopal tradition of academic excellence and devoted to fulfilling the potential of each child. Good moral conduct is both taught and expected, as is an appreciation for the heritage and beliefs of others. The student body remains one of the most diverse among independent schools in the area, reflecting the community Grace serves, and enriching the educational experience of all its students.