Frances Littman Seldin founded Barrie School as the Peter Pan Kindergarten with an enrollment of 15 nursery-age children. Also called the Peter Pan School, classes first were held in her parents’ home in Washington D.C. The school prospered and added classes. By 1939, the school had expanded and moved to Fern Place in northwest Washington, D.C. Over the years, Barrie School has been in several locations in the Washington area. In 1956, Mrs. Seldin purchased the Layhill Road property, which eventually accommodated the entire Barrie School community. The founder led Barrie until her death in 1971 and was succeeded by her son, Tim Seldin. It was through his interest in Montessori education that the school began to pursue a formal Montessori-based curriculum in the Lower School. In 1980, the Institute for Advanced Montessori Studies was founded on the Barrie School campus.
Until 1984, Barrie was a proprietary school. In that year the school incorporated as a non-profit, tax-exempt institution, and a board of trustees was established to oversee the operation of the school. The Board of Trustees purchased the property from the Seldin family in 1994. At that time, M. Jeffrey Moredock became the third Head of School. Barrie joined the National Association of Independent Schools in 1995.
The Layhill Road campus has changed dramatically since 1990. The Barrie Center for Athletics and The Performing Arts was completed in 1999 and remains the centerpiece of the lower campus. Despite the physical changes, however, Barrie remains true to its mission to provide a student-centered, teacher-guided, interdisciplinary education. Our goal is to promote the academic, athletic, artistic, and social growth of the individual student. The Lower School provides an exemplary Montessori program. Our Middle and Upper Schools pursue a more traditional academic curriculum, but with a strong emphasis on experiential and service learning. Barrie School has always believed in striking a balance between theoretical and practical learning; the motto is “A passion for learning – A passion for life.”