Skip To Main Content

Mobile Header Utility

Mobile Main Navigation

Spring Gala Hero

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, as it was first known, was housed in the basement of the Franklin Sherman School and welcomed 19 children on September 22, 1942.

Today, more than 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 every student builds the intellectual prowess and emotional acuity to step confidently into young adulthood.

Take a journey through the decades to learn more about Langley’s 80-year history.


The Langley School in 1942

In 1941, founding parents Persis Lane and Judith Glaser sketched a plan for what seemed—at the  time—like a radical idea: a school to educate children ages three through six.

The Langley School in 1943

In 1943, the school faced the obstacle of wartime gasoline rationing, which severely limited automobile transportation to the point that the school was forced to split geographically into two groups.

The Langley School in 1944

In 1944, the two groups reunited to form the "Langley Cooperative School" under the direction of Mrs. William R. Campton.

The Langley School in 1945

The school’s first constitution was written in October 1945, bylaws were then adopted, and the school was incorporated under the laws of Virginia and became a nonprofit cooperative association.

The Langley School in 1946

Langley added a second-grade class in 1946 and emphasized learning through games, projects, and less drill.

The Langley School in 1948

In 1948, Langley relocated to the Laughlin House, a large Victorian home in the center of McLean.

The Langley School in 1949

In 1949, art was a vital part of The Langley school. Self-expression in color and form was the aim.


The Langley School in 1950

In 1950, The Langley School enrolled 85 children in its nursery and primary classes (ages 3 to 6 years old). 

The Langley School in 1950

n 1951, Langley began a separate class for 7- and 8-year-olds, which become the school’s first full-day session. That year, the school had five teachers and hired its first full-time director, Ms. Barbara Waterman.

The Langley School in 1952

n 1952 Langley established the first Science Club.  It was led by Mrs. Evelyn Swindler, an eager naturalist. The countryside surrounding the school offered a natural laboratory that stimulated the questioning attitude and cultivated the habit of observation in the students.

The Langley School in 1953

By 1953, because of overcrowding in the public schools, a constant stream of applicants swelled the waiting list to record proportions. 

Langley in 1954

Langley organized the very first fair (the precursor to today’s Fall Fair) in the spring of 1954 as a fundraiser for the school's new home on Balls Hill Road. That year, nearly 3,000 tickets were sold, netting a profit of $2,300.

The picture shows the first school building on Balls Hill Road  in 1955

In 1955, Langley celebrated the opening of its new school facilities on Balls Hill Road (at the site of our current campus). 

Third-graders at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in 1956.

In 1956, Langley was the first elementary school from the greater Washington area to participate in the newly organized guided tour program at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

The picture shows students attending a concert by the National Symphony Orchestra.

By 1958, forty-seven new families came to Langley, bringing enrollment to 140 children. The same year, Langley School sponsored annual performances by the National Symphony Orchestra as a public service.

art classroom in 1959

n 1959, Langley was invited for the first time to display students' artwork in Dolley Madison Library. Visual Arts have been a vital part of the Langley curriculum since the school’s founding. 


students during break in 1960

Langley School students frequently went ice skating on Evans Farm Pond (now the community of Evans Mill Pond.)  The pond was within walking distance of Langley and students and teachers accessed it by crossing over a fence.

ground breaking in 1961

By 1961, 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.

students in 1962

Due to the recent Cuban missile crisis, Langley created a planning committee for safety in 1962 to prepare safety procedures. 

school principal and artist in 1963

In 1963, father and artist Colin Greenly designed the swallows sculpture mounted on the outside wall of the main building. The sculpture was designed to represent the "academic freedom" that the artist felt Langley School embodied.

fist Langley bus in 1964

In 1964, Langley began offering its first bus service for students. 

Brownies group in 1965

In 1965 the Langley Brownie Troop was established.

ground breaking in 1966

In 1966, the school began construction of four new buildings on the Balls Hill Road campus? The first phase of the construction was the new preschool building.

Langley principal in 1967

In 1967, Fairfax County added kindergarten classes to the public school system for the first time.  With the second phase of building construction already underway and seeing an opportunity for the school to continue growing,

New building in 1968

The arts and science building was completed in September 1968. The new building housed science labs and arts classrooms.

carpool in 1969

The first summer program at Langley was established in 1969.


CMAB in 1970

Langley purchased the nearby Hall property, which consisted of a small farmhouse and some land.

Spanish Teacher in 1973

Soon after the addition of grades 7 and 8, Langley added a foreign language program, offering French and Spanish twice a week for grades 6-8. 

Langley First Auction

The idea for Langley’s first auction sprouted at the 1975 Fair when parent Dick Snowdon discovered leftover food and flea market items that had not been sold. 

Students playing basketball in 1976

Competitive sports began at Langley in 1976 when Langley’s new Field House opened. 

Students playing in the new athletics facility in 1978

In 1978, Langley expanded its athletic facilities by purchasing an athletic field it had been renting from the American Legion.


Faculty vs. students basketball game in 1980

Since 1980, the eighth-graders most anticipated traditions was the Students vs. Faculty basketball game. 

 Betty Brown in 1981

Betty Brown was appointed director after serving as a teacher and administrator at the school since 1967.

Langley celebrating 40 years

By the time Langley celebrated its 40th anniversary, the school had already received its first accreditation and had become a member of the Virginia Association of Independent Schools (VAIS).

Gift-grade students in 1983

By 1983,  Langley completed its “double-sectioning” plan to ensure that each grade from nursery school through eighth grade had two classes.

Mrs. Potter in 1984

In 1984, The Langley School expanded its computer facilities and designated Mrs. Ann Potter as the first school’s Computer Coordinator.

Class of 1985

The first Langley School alumni group was formed in 1985. It was called “Friends of Langley.”

Advisory group in 1986

An advisor/advisee system was set up to support and facilitate the social development of students in the upper grades and advisory groups began the long-time tradition of serving breakfast to the homeless at S.O.M.E.

Langley logo in 1989

n 1989, the school store started selling items with the Langley School logo on them. The birds in the logo represented the three divisions of the school, and the eternal flame above “Established in 1942” symbolized ongoing, lifelong learning.  


‘Readathon’ to purchase books for the new school library

In 1990, Langley students in grades 1-5 read 1,990 books as a school fundraiser. Under the guidance of their reading teacher, Mrs. Sherry Wood, the students structured their own ‘Readathon’ to purchase books for the new school library, raising a total of $6,927.

Langley broke ground for a new learning center and library in 1991

In 1991, Langley broke ground for 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.

Pat Bush Library in 1992

In conjunction with the school’s 50th anniversary, Langley opened a new $1.2 million learning center and library which boasted 2.5 times the capacity of the former library.

student in the new technology lab

By 1994, the new technology lab located on the upper floor of the library was at its full potential. The innovative lab was equipped with 14 Macintosh computers, a scanner, a laser printer, and a color jet ink printer. 

Langley Band in 1996

The first Langley Pops Concert was held in 1996. 

Betty Brown building

Langley opened the Betty Brown Lower School building. This 26,700-square-foot facility featured numerous classrooms, a multipurpose assembly room, and a science lab.


PALS (Parent Association of the Langley School) was founded in 1999.


Doris Cottam

Doris Cottam assumed the role of head of school in 2000 following Betty Brown’s retirement in 1999.

1st Langley Mascot Lightning

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.  

Students on campus

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.

Langley new logo in 2006

The school rolled out a new mission statement and the tagline “every child, every day.”

Langley new building in 2008

Langley opened the Jeffrey J. Sherman Arts Center, featuring an auditorium with retractable seating, music rooms, and a spacious, light-filled lobby area.

Gleason Field

Langley installed a new turf athletic field named in honor of long-time Athletic Director Jim Gleason. 


student jumping at the  jump pit

Langley hosted its first Capital Athletics Conference track and field meet. This was made possible because Langley had built a 70-foot long jump pit behind Gleason Field for a new track and field unit.

string class

The Music Department introduced strings as a music option for Middle Schoolers, and this enormously popular program has since expanded to include the Lower School.

Dr. Elinor Scully

Dr. Elinor Scully became head of school following Doris Cottam’s retirement after 13 years in the role.

rooftop classroom

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.

Strategic plan 2015

The school launched a new strategic plan focusing on three key pillars: ensuring academic excellence, articulating social-emotional expertise, and investing in sustainability.


Langley Students during COVID

Langley successfully navigated the COVID-19 pandemic beginning in spring 2020 by pivoting to a distance learning model that maintained community connections and high-quality learning.

Michele Claeys

With the departure of Head of School Elinor Scully after an eight-year tenure, Langley welcomed Michele Claeys as the new head of school.

Crossroads Building

Langley celebrated the school’s 80th birthday and opened the Crossroads Building, which houses Primary School and fifth-grade classrooms, the library, and a multipurpose space.