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Washington School for Girls breaks ground on $25M expansion

The 25-year-old Black Catholic institution, currently split between two campuses in Southeast D.C., hopes to complete the new build by November 2025.

A render of THEARC IV, due to become the new home of the Washington School for Girls. (Sanchez Palmer Architects/BLDUP)

The Washington School for Girls (WSG), an all-scholarship Black Catholic institution in the nation’s capital, has broken ground on a new $25M expansion in the Southeast quarter of the district.

The ceremony took place on Wednesday at the Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus (THEARC), which houses one of the two campuses for the school serving grades 3-8. The other is located roughly a mile north at the former Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic School.

The new building, dubbed THEARC IV and designed by Sanchez Palmer Architects, will replace part of the parking lot at the existing THEARC campus and accommodate all 100 current WSG students and more.

“We’re thrilled to build a home of our own, an innovative and intentional space that sparks our students’ joy of learning, is reflective of our mission, and will allow us to better prepare our girls for success in high school and equip them with the skills, the values, and the confidence to thrive for the years beyond,” said WSG president  Dr. Beth Reaves.

“The new building will transform our girls’ experience by creating a greater sense of community, allowing our younger students to join with older students each day under one roof, with cross-grade connections, learning and prayer opportunities and a greater sense of sisterhood.”

The school’s nearly all-Black student body comes from around the neighborhood, which includes the District of Columbia and communities in neighboring Maryland. The forthcoming three-story edifice will sit adjacent to the D.C. border and will span 33,000 square feet.

The expansion will help the school increase its student capacity by up to 150%, opening doors for Catholic education to the region’s underserved communities. This aligns with the founding vision of WSG, which came about in the late 1990s via a coalition of the Religious of Jesus and Mary, the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, and the National Council of Negro Women.

Unlike most Catholic schools nationwide, WSG does not charge tuition and instead relies on a robust fundraising model. A similar financial fervor has resulted in the WSG administration securing nearly all of the necessary capital for the Building Dreams Campaign—a feat accomplished with the help of Building Bridges Across the River, a local nonprofit fostering socioeconomic equity in the majority-Black portion of Southeast D.C. across the Anacostia River.

“Expanding access to THEARC’s best-in-class facilities, programs and partnerships in arts and culture, economic opportunity, education, recreation, health, and well-being to more girls of color is at the heart of our work to remove barriers, promote unity, and celebrate the vibrant culture with the East of the River community,” said BBAR’s CEO, Rahsaan Bernard.

“We are proud to work with WSG—an anchor partner at THEARC since its inception—to help build a high-quality facility that matches the high-quality educational opportunities the school delivers and what its students deserve.”

The building process, led by WC Smith Construction, is expected to be completed by November 2025. Interested parties can donate to the WSG expansion campaign on the project's dedicated webpage.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger.

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