Henry Barnard School Starts New, Independent Chapter

HBS establishes itself as an independent school after 122 years of history with Rhode Island College


If there’s anything this past year has taught us, it’s how to make lemonade out of lemons. So, when Rhode Island College announced its plan to close its elementary laboratory school back in August, the community behind Henry Barnard School saw an opportunity. 

“We gathered a group of dedicated parents, community leaders, education advisors, and a fundraising consultant (and RIC alum) that specializes in nonprofit work,” says Rebecca Bromberg, who is a public and community relations consultant. After months of research, connecting with current and former families, staff, and alumni, and filing paperwork with the Rhode Island Department of Education, HBS established itself as an independent school, unaffiliated with the college, ready to welcome students in fall of this year.

This new chapter for HBS is a significant one, following a 122-year-long history with RIC. The school was originally founded in 1898 as The Observation School of Rhode Island Normal School (later Rhode Island College) and in 1920 was renamed in honor of the state’s first commissioner of public schools and nation’s first commissioner of education, Henry Barnard. Generations of future teachers cut their teeth at HBS, and in turn its students reaped the benefits of cutting-edge practice in their classroom. Some of the most recent and notable graduates of HBS? “Olivia Culpo (Miss Universe 2012) and Helena Foulkes (former president of CVS Pharmacy),” says Bromberg, to name a few.

Even though HBS will no longer be a laboratory school, it will remain nestled on RIC’s campus surrounded by greenspace and, most importantly, its approach to teaching will not waver. Programs will still be personalized, interdisciplinary, and collaborative. Preschool and kindergarten classes are play-based and incorporate students’ emerging interests, while upper grades focus on students’ own research and observation and real-world applications of subjects like math and science. Plus, the curriculum will be peppered with explorations of art, music, tech, Spanish, and physical education.

“Henry Barnard School is uniquely positioned to meet the needs of each child, particularly in the midst of and coming out of the challenges associated with COVID-19 and distance learning,” says Bromberg of the school’s student-centered approach. “Personally, for our family, HBS has been the stuff of magic.”

Find more information, schedule a virtual open house, and submit online applications at HenryBarnard.org.


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