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Ask the Expert: Grymes Memorial School

by Brenda Sapanghila

If you’re looking for a new school for your child, or are starting the adventure with your rising kindergartener, Grymes Memorial School in beautiful Orange County, Virginia, is worth considering. In this month’s Ask the Expert, the Administrative Team at Grymes answered questions about what makes it a unique place for children to learn and walked us through the admissions process and more!

What makes Grymes Memorial School stand out?

Grymes Memorial School is a family. You feel it the instant you step onto the beautiful 42-acre campus. Children smile at one other and greet you, teachers are relaxed and happy, and there’s a buzz in the hallways as students and teachers go about the business of exploration and discovery. This strong bond—within a community where everyone is kind and knows each other’s name—makes Grymes stand out.

While the hands-on nature of our curriculum is a highlight, the emphasis on confidence in self-expression is extraordinary. Whether it’s taking part in conversations with teachers and peers in the classroom, standing up and speaking for an announcement at our weekly all-school assemblies, performing in a class play or reciting a poem to a standing-room-only audience in our signature Declamations program, all Grymes students have a voice. We encourage them to share their voice with confidence and poise. I’m always amazed at how comfortable Grymes students are on stage, and that’s a big part of what makes this program unique. Students get the tools, the opportunities and the encouragement to express themselves, and they do it beautifully!

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What does it mean that Grymes School has a “character-driven community?”

Grymes is a non-denominational, independent school, but we emphasize the importance of character and citizenship as part of a whole child education. Our core values of respect, responsibility, kindness and honor (or honesty) are a part of all we do. We create a community of trust built on this framework. At Grymes, kids learn more than reading, writing and arithmetic; they learn good citizenship within a community. That includes not just the school community, but the outside world. The Head of School greets students with a handshake at the start of each day and teachers treat students with respect. We teach students the importance of respect and caring about others through our four “watch words.” We teach these through class community-service projects, and through a curriculum that has a global reach.

How does Grymes Memorial School incorporate the arts and STEM?

The arts are a big part of our world at Grymes and are tied into the class curricula. This includes visual arts, music and drama. Twice each week, students have art class in the Visual Arts Center through a mixed-media, hands-on program. Ms. Frantz coordinates with teachers to make curricular connections wherever possible, particularly with history and science! For example, while the first graders are studying Ancient Egypt, they’re creating their own Egyptian cartouches with papyrus they made in art. Every student also has music twice each week. The wonderful work our music teacher, Tracey Stakem, does with our students is demonstrated on stage with two outstanding annual all-school concerts. Learning to play an instrument is incredible brain training. The multitasking skills students learn in our Upper School Wind Ensemble is astounding.

STEM is an ever-evolving focus for us. This year, we’re homed in on engineering. We love the focus on problem-solving, collaboration and innovation. Our Lower School science teacher, Julie Sherman, has transformed her science classroom into the “Rad Lab,” and has filled it with all kinds of hands-on tools, materials and gadgets. Her design briefs have inspired our students to build and create. It’s amazing to see how excited our students are about problem-solving! Engineering infuses our community with a wonderful, creative energy, and it’s so thrilling to see how inspired our students have become!

What are things found at Grymes Memorial School you can’t get anywhere else?

Our loving, happy community! Our wide-reaching and well-rounded curriculum that challenges, engages and excites students in so many avenues. Seventy years of traditions that bring our school family together, in meaningful ways. These are all very important pieces of the Grymes experience. Most important, our teachers are outstanding. They care wholeheartedly about their students and are so dedicated to each and every individual in their classroom. They are truly what makes this school what it is.

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Is financial support an option?

Absolutely! It’s our goal to make a Grymes education affordable for as many families in the area as possible. Everyone is welcome to apply for our Tuition Assistance Program, which can discount tuition by up to half for eligible families. Over 50 percent of our families participate in the program, and we encourage everyone to apply! The application is completely confidential, and we do our best to make a Grymes education possible for as many families as we can. We work with you to design a payment plan—all interest-free! Our goal is to make tuition as manageable and stress-free as possible for our families.

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Tell us about the admissions process.

While we have a rolling admissions process and don’t have specific deadlines for enrollment, we limit spaces in the classrooms—and they fill quickly! The process typically begins with a parent tour. This allows us to visit together and get to know each other. It’s a fun opportunity to walk through the hallways and peek into at classrooms while students are working. I find it’s helpful for parents to observe the “Grymes magic” in person. The tour is a great opportunity for them to get a real feel for the school community. After an application and transcript is submitted, we invite the child for one or two “shadow days” so they can meet their peers and we can get to know them. During the student visit day (or days), we do a few exercises to gauge readiness for the curriculum. It’s done in a casual and friendly setting with our Academic Support Director so it doesn’t feel like “testing” at all. Once we have a complete admissions file, the admissions committee reviews the file together and, if space is available and it’s a good fit, they issue a “Welcome to the Family” invitation to enroll. It’s an easy process that follows a few steps, but we try to make it as enjoyable and worry-free as possible.

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