Who we are

Ross Elementary is public school on the move. Serving children in Pre-School through fifth grade, Ross is situated in the heart of Dupont Circle in a charming historic building with a beautiful playground and playing field. The teachers and staff bring outstanding qualifications and commitment to their professions and the student population is small but diverse. Our dedicated and close-knit parent community feels that these are central to a positive elementary school experience.

A Message From our principal


This was a traditional greeting among Masai warriors, considered the most fearsome and intelligent of African tribes, meaning “And how are the children?” The traditional response to this inquiry was, “All the children are well.” This meant, of course, that peace and safety prevailed; that the priorities of protecting the young and powerless were in place; that the Masai people had not forgotten their reason for being, their proper function, and their responsibilities. If you can imagine a school community where peace and safety prevail, where children are a priority, and where the adults in the community understand their roles and responsibilities, I hope you envision John W. Ross Elementary School.

I am honored to lead a school where all of the adults in our community work together to bear the equal weight and responsibility for ensuring that all of our children are well, not only as measured by academic achievement scores, but also as measured by the effectiveness of our social curriculum in developing kind and generous human beings. As you spend time on our website learning more about the Ross community, it should be evident to you that “Kasserian ingera” is the question that guides us as we embark upon the challenging and rewarding work of educating the next generation

Holly M. Searl

Principal, John W. Ross Elementary School

What makes ross special

In the words of the beloved children’s story, Miss Rumphius, we understand that “you must do something to make the world more beautiful.” Shelley Harwayne in her groundbreaking book Going Public says it another way, “We want to raise wide-awake children who pay attention to and take responsibility for their world.” Part of this is knowing not just that our children will learn to read, write, and do arithmetic well, but that they will “choose” to do so. Hand-in-hand our community of teachers, professionals, and parents, “help children see the richness of their lives” and how this “literacy” can enrich and improve not only the quality of their lives, but of those around them.

We are a neighborhood school with 160 students in Pre-School through Grade 5. We come from many different countries, religions, and family backgrounds. We share the common value that we want the best for our children, our school, our community, and the world. We work hard together with joy and laughter to make our hidden gem of a school shine.

From a teacher’s viewpoint I can say that Ross has been the best school I have taught at in my 15 year teaching career…I feel I am supported and provided the chance to grow professionally by the administration. We are given time to analyze student strengths and weaknesses as well as our own as teachers. We are then able to receive assistance to improve our craft…At Ross, parents and teachers work together as a team to meet not just the needs of a student, but the needs of the whole child.

Lisa Juriga


Building History

The school is named for John W. Ross who was an attorney, commissioner of the District of Columbia, and a member of the school system’s board of trustees.

Built in 1888 at a cost of $27,000, the John W. Ross School at 1730 R Street NW is a prime example of redbrick box design used by the Office of the Building Superintendent to build many schools in the District of Columbia in the 1880s and 1890s. When it opened for classes in 1889, the building was initially named the Adams School (for the nation’s 6th President, John Quincy Adams); the Adams School subsequently moved to its current location at 2020 19th Street NW. The original Ross School was on Harvard Street NW between 11th and 13th and it moved to the R Street building in 1935.