Our History

Shaping uncommonly kind, poised, and intelligent young learners since 1942

In 1941, founding parents Persis Lane and Judith Glaser sketched a plan for what seemed—at that time—like a radical idea: a school to educate children ages three through six. One year later, joined by a group of similarly enthusiastic, dedicated parents, they opened one of the nation’s first nursery schools. The McLean Playschool, housed in the basement of the Franklin Sherman School, welcomed 19 children on September 22, 1942.

Today, nearly 500 students from preschool through eighth grade learn, play, and grow on our beautiful McLean campus. But we’ve never forgotten our cooperative roots. Our steadfast belief in community—in collaborative effort and shared responsibility—fuels and shapes our program to this day. Over the years, we’ve also maintained and deepened our founders’ focus on childhood. Experts in their subjects and in child development, today’s Langley teachers carefully tend to students’ growth from age three to young adolescence.

Throughout our history, our entire community has joyfully ensured that all our children build the intellectual prowess, emotional acuity, and moral foundation to step confidently into young adulthood.

Take a journey through the decades to see what we mean.

Langley through the decades


  • On September 22, 1942, Langley first opened its doors in the basement of the Franklin Sherman School in downtown McLean. The school was called the McLean Playschool and enrolled 19 children between the ages of 3 and 6. Half-day classes met five days a week, with mothers serving as volunteer assistants. Tuition was $6.25 per month.
  • In 1943, the school split into two groups because of gas rationing during WWII. The Langley group met in what was Langley Methodist Church and the McLean group met at the Lee Charters residence in McLean.
  • By 1944, the two groups reunited to form one cooperative preschool called the Langley Cooperative School which included nursery, kindergarten, and first grade. Classes were held in the old Rhinehart farmhouse on Georgetown Pike near the intersection of Route 123. A “work and pay” program enabled families to give more time and less money, or vice versa, within the bounds of the overall average required.
  • The school’s first constitution was written in 1945. Bylaws were then adopted, the school was incorporated under the laws of Virginia, it became a nonprofit cooperative association composed of member parents, and its legal name became Langley School, Incorporated.
  • Langley added a second-grade class in 1946.
  • The Washington Post ran an article about Langley in 1947 entitled “Country School” which described the school as an “educational laboratory” and hailed it for its community-spirited parents.
  • In 1948, Langley relocated to the Laughlin House, a large Victorian home in the center of McLean at the current site of McLean Hardware. That fall, a combination second-third grade was added and the school had its first waiting list with 14 children seeking entry over the quota.


  • By 1950, Langley enrolled 85 children, ages 3 to 6. New families were selected on the basis of how much time and effort they were willing and able to expend; participation was a key factor in admittance.
  • In 1951, the school had five teachers and hired its first full-time director, Barbara Waterman. All members were required to contribute 20 hours per year to the Building and Grounds Committee or forfeit one dollar per hour missed. Langley also began a separate class for 7- and 8-year-olds which became the school’s first full-day session.
  • Langley held its first Spring Fair (the precursor to today’s Fall Fair) in 1954. Nearly 3,000 tickets were sold, netting a profit of $2,300 for a fund to construct a new school building.
  • In 1954, Langley purchased a five-acre tract of land on Balls Hill Road to build its own facility which opened in 1955 and contained five classrooms for nursery through grade 3, a library, a teachers’ room, and two offices.
  • Workdays were held every Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. when parents contributed their time toward installing playground equipment and fences, as well as painting and landscaping for the new building. The cooperative nature of the school made private education affordable to those with modest incomes, as parents could “work out” the tuition through repair work or classroom assistance in addition to the mandatory work hours that all parents were required to devote to the school.
  • By 1958, 47 new families came to Langley, bringing enrollment to 140 children.


  • With enrollment continuing to climb, the school began experiencing a shortage of space and added a multi-purpose room and two classrooms to the main building on Balls Hill Road in 1961-1962. The additional space allowed for the separation of second and third grades, the addition of two new kindergarten classes, and the limitation of class sizes to no more than 20 students.
  • In 1964, Langley began offering bus service on Dolley Madison Boulevard which had been recently paved as a four-lane highway. That same year saw the retirement of Director Barbara Waterman and the hiring of her replacement, Lucy Frank Daoust.
  • After conducting careful studies to determine the impact of expanding the school, the decision was made to add fourth, fifth, and sixth grades over a three-year period from 1965 to 1967.
  • In 1966, Langley began the planning and construction of a four-stage master plan that would add four new buildings to the main classroom building on Balls Hill Road. Phase I of the plan would create a preschool building, phases II and III included an arts and science building and library, and phase IV included an auditorium/gymnasium.
  • The new preschool building and library were completed in 1966 and the arts and science building opened in 1968.


  • During the early 1970s, there were long waiting lists for almost every grade which led to talk of further expansion. In 1971, Langley added its first seventh-grade class, followed by a new eighth-grade class in 1972.
  • Soon after the addition of grades 7 and 8, the school formally added a foreign language program, offering French and Spanish, as well as an algebra elective for eighth-graders.
  • In the 1970-1971 school year, Langley purchased the nearby Hall property, which consisted of a small farmhouse and some land. This acquisition significantly enlarged Langley’s total land area to include the administration building, the property manager’s office, the bus loading area, and the parking lot. Affectionately named “The Roost,” the Hall farmhouse became home to Langley’s administrative offices and it still serves that purpose today.
  • A pilot music program began in first grade in 1971 which led to the formation of Langley’s first school band in 1978.
  • By 1972, Langley enrolled 296 students in nursery through grade 8.
  • In 1976, the school’s new Field House was completed which led to the idea of instituting competitive sports at Langley.
  • The idea for Langley’s first auction sprouted at the 1975 fair when a parent discovered leftover food and flea market items that had not been sold. Instead of throwing them out, he began begging for bids for the leftover items and collected several hundred dollars. The tradition continued until 1977 when Langley held its first stand-alone auction in the Field House which raised nearly $5,000.
  • In 1978, Lucy Frank Daoust resigned after 14 years as the school’s director; she was replaced by David Rivers. That same year, Langley purchased the athletic field it had been renting from the American Legion.


  • Betty Brown was appointed director in 1981 after serving as a teacher and administrator at the school since 1967.
  • Langley received its first accreditation in 1981 and became a member of the Virginia Association of Independent Schools.
  • A four-classroom wing and new kindergarten/multi-purpose building were constructed in 1981. In addition to expanded classroom space, the new buildings contained a math lab, computer lab, foreign language rooms, and fine arts wing.
  • By 1983, Langley completed its gradual double-sectioning plan, ensuring each grade from nursery through eighth had two classes.
  • Enrollment grew from 317 students in 1981 to 447 in 1984, with 52 faculty by 1984.
  • As more families had two parents working outside the home, Langley no longer mandated buildings and grounds work for the parents, but parents were strongly encouraged to stay involved in the life of the school.
  • An additional four-classroom wing to accommodate the Upper School (grades 6-8) was constructed and the arts and science building was expanded in 1986-1987.


  • A Strategic Planning Committee was formed in 1990 to develop a policy plan that both affirmed Langley’s rich heritage and moved the school in new directions. The committee also developed a new mission statement for the school.
  • In 1991-1992, Langley built a new learning center and library which boasted 2.5 times the capacity of the former library. The building was named in honor of Pat Bush, the school’s long-time librarian. $1.2 million was raised for the 9,000-square-foot facility containing a state-of-the-art technology lab.
  • Langley’s first Jazz Band was started, and the school hosted the first annual Langley Instrumental Festival in 1992 which created a forum for more than 200 area student musicians to compete with their peers.
  • In 1997, Langley opened the Betty Brown Lower School building. This 26,700-square-foot facility featured numerous classrooms, a multi-purpose assembly room, and a science lab.
  • Although parental involvement had been a central part of the school’s philosophy since its founding, an official parent association – PALS – was not founded until 1999 when two Langley moms decided to create a more structured, inclusive organization that would coordinate all of Langley’s volunteer opportunities.
  • After nearly 20 years as head of school, Betty Brown resigned in 1999.


  • Doris Cottam assumed the role of head of school in 2000.
  • In 2001, the school built the Solomon Athletic Center, a 23,350-square-foot facility featuring two gyms, a weight room, a cardiovascular room, locker rooms, and meeting rooms. The Langley leopard was chosen as the school mascot.
  • In 2003, Langley developed a Community Contract which reinforced the school’s core values of respect, kindness, honesty, trustworthiness, and citizenship, and helped create a safe learning environment.
  • In order to maintain small class sizes and a low student/teacher ratio, in 2004 Langley began the process of adding new sections so each grade level included three sections.
  • A media studio featuring green screen technology and named in honor of long-time faculty member Ann Potter was dedicated in 2005.
  • The school rolled out a new mission statement and the tagline “every child, every day” in 2006.
  • Opened in the fall of 2008, the Jeffrey J. Sherman Arts Center featured an auditorium with retractable seating, band, music, and art rooms, and a spacious, light-filled lobby area for students in grades 3-8 to enjoy lunch daily.
  • In 2009, Langley installed a new turf athletic field named in honor of Athletic Director Jim Gleason.
  • By the end of the decade, more than 480 students were enrolled and Langley employed nearly 70 faculty members.


  • In 2010, Langley expanded the junior kindergarten program, nearly doubling the instructional time students receive. The school also rolled out an optional extended day program for JK students to provide two additional hours in the afternoon.
  • Langley added a new Chinese language offering in 2010 for Middle School students, and expanded Spanish offerings to preschool and JK students in 2012.
  • From 2010 to 2015, Langley’s Athletic Department added several new team sports options, including cross country, baseball, volleyball, and tennis.
  • To provide eighth-graders with leadership opportunities and a more global perspective of the world, Langley began taking the class on an annual, week-long eco-tour of Costa Rica in 2011.
  • The Music Department introduced strings as a music option for Middle Schoolers in 2011, and this enormously popular program has since expanded to include the Lower School.
  • The 2012-2013 school year marked Langley’s 70th birthday, and the school celebrated seven decades of innovation and growth throughout the year.
  • After 13 years as head of school, Doris Cottam retired in spring of 2013. Dr. Elinor Scully became the school’s next head on July 1, 2013.
  • Langley lengthened the preschool school day in 2013 and began offering after-school enrichment to create a full-day option for our youngest students.
  • In fall 2014, Langley opened the Doris Earl Cottam Middle School building, a state-of-the-art facility for grades 6-8 that includes a rooftop classroom and innovative science labs.
  • The school launched a new strategic plan in fall 2015 focusing on three key pillars: ensuring academic excellence, articulating social-emotional expertise, and investing in sustainability.
  • In an effort to foster innovation, creativity, and design-thinking skills, Langley hosted our first-ever STEAM Fair in 2016.
  • A new teacher feedback and coaching model called the Marshall Feedback Method, launched in 2016, provides teachers with collaborative feedback to incorporate into their lessons.
  • Langley began taking eighth-graders to New Mexico for their week-long capstone trip in 2016. 
  • In fall 2017, the school introduced a new seven-day rotation schedule with fewer transitions and more instructional time.
  • During Langley's 75th birthday celebration in 2017-2018, we connected with past and present members of the community at a series of special events, including our first-ever Day of Giving and 75th anniversary auction.
  • Langley adopted a new math curriculum, Math in Focus, for grades K-5 and developed a schedule of regular curricular reviews by subject area to ensure the curriculum is innovative and relevant.
  • As part of our strategic plan, the school launched a custom-built social-emotional learning program called REACH (Raising Emotional Acuity, Cultural Responsiveness, and Healthy Behaviors).
  • Langley's Next Generation Campaign, which is currently underway, focuses on the endowment and the construction of a new building to house our Primary School, fifth grade, and library.


The Langley School: The First Fifty Years 


The idea of creating The Langley School took place many years ago, during the summer of 1941, preceding by six months the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The United States entered World War II on December 8, 1941. The following year on September 22, 1942, The Langley School first opened its doors...