Renovations are underway at the British International School of Washington as the 2001 Wisconsin Ave. NW campus prepares to welcome a record number of students this fall.
The school’s location in the federally protected Georgetown Historic District complicates exterior changes to the building, but administrators have been working to make better use of the existing interior. Perhaps the biggest change came in 2015, when the school renovated the top floor of its building to add classroom space.
“It was a concrete shell,” said Dan Stewart, the school’s site operations leader and building manager. Under “our original lease, we only had three levels. Now we have four levels and the basement. The top floor now has 15 classrooms, a lounge for IB students, a nice new art room and an auditorium.”
This summer, the school is following the lead of its Nord Anglia Education parent company to dress up the building’s interior.
“We’re trying to brighten things up,” Stewart said. “We’re adding offices to the Wisconsin lobby on the first floor. Lots of glass walls — we’re trying to open the environment up. We’re changing all of the bulbs in the interior hallways to day-bulbs. They’ve done some research that that’s supposed to help out in the classroom.”
This summer’s work also involves rebranding the interior with Nord Anglia’s blue, teal and white color scheme, after the company brought the school under its umbrella in 2013.
The British International School serves students in the equivalent of pre-K through 12th grade, using an international curriculum shared among Nord Anglia’s 40-plus schools around the world. Tuition ranges from $13,100 for part-time 2-year-olds to $33,540 for high school seniors.
According to principal Ian Piper, the school will have a record enrollment of about 520 students in the 2017-18 school year, up by about 30 students from 2016-17.
School administrators credit the recent campus renovations — along with recent partnerships with Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Juilliard — with helping recruit and retain a vibrant student body.
“We take best practices in facilities and curriculum from other schools and try to implement them in our school. It’s nice being a bigger network,” Stewart said.
Mike Henderson, head of the school’s secondary education, said the program’s profile is rising.
“Word seems to be spreading not just around the national community, but the local community now,” Henderson said. “We are connecting with a lot of residents who we haven’t previously had contact with.”
One marketing push is on hold, though, due to Georgetown’s historic protections. School spokesperson Jennifer Clarke said British International wanted to put up a translucent sign on the doors of the Wisconsin Avenue entrance to better advertise the school, but has had to re-evaluate its plans and is instead considering putting a sign on the interior glass. New signs in the garage will be installed this summer.
Other future plans include a new cafeteria in the basement space, a project Stewart predicts will be completed in the next two years. No outward expansion of the building is expected.
“The recent and current developments are all taking place on our property,” Henderson said. “We’re not acquiring extra buildings or building out. We are making really good use of our existing space.”