WASHINGTON – President-elect Barack Obama and his wife have chosen Sidwell Friends School for their two daughters, opting for a private institution that another White House child, Chelsea Clinton, attended a decade ago.
"A number of great schools were considered," said Katie McCormick Lelyveld, a spokeswoman for Michelle Obama. "In the end, the Obamas selected the school that was the best fit for what their daughters need right now."
She said Sidwell can provide the security and privacy that Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, will need as part of the new first family and Sidwell can help with that. She also said that Sasha and Malia had become good friends with Vice President-elect Joe Biden's grandchildren, who go to the school.
Sidwell is a private Quaker school with a campus in northwest Washington for grades 5-12 and another in suburban Bethesda, Md., for kindergarten through fourth grade. Malia is in fifth grade and Sasha is in second grade, suggesting that the girls would attend schools at different locations.
Michelle Obama and her daughters visited Sidwell and another elite private school, Georgetown Day, earlier this week. The soon-to-be first lady visited both schools last week, without her daughters.
Lelyveld said that while public schools were considered, the Obamas felt that a private school was in the best interest of their children. The two girls currently attend the private University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, where Michelle Obama is on the board.
Michelle Obama went to public schools on Chicago's South Side, and undestands the importance of strong public schools, Lelyveld said, and the administration plans to work hard on that issue.
Jimmy Carter's daughter, Amy, went to a public school, but Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton chose Sidwell for Chelsea. Hillary Clinton later said she received "unfortunately, good advice" that the press would bother Chelsea if she attended public school.
Sidwell Friends has already proven protective of the Obamas' privacy, refusing earlier this week to say whether the girls had visited the school after a motorcade was seen outside.
Messages left with school administrators on Friday were not immediately returned. A woman who answered the phone at the home of Bruce Stewart, Sidwell's head of school, said he was not home. But she said the school would not release a statement before Monday.
Al Gore III, the son of former Vice President Al Gore, also attended Sidwell, where tuition is $28,442 at the lower school and $29,442 at the middle and upper schools.
The quality of the school and its extra security make Sidwell Friends a good choice, said Letitia Baldrige, who was Jackie Kennedy's social secretary and chief of staff during the Kennedy administration. Caroline Kennedy attended first grade in a makeshift third-floor classroom inside the White House.
"The children are under enormous pressure from the press and their fellow students and especially the mommies of their fellow students," who are eager for their children to attend sleepovers, Baldrige said.
"I'm sure they'll both be athletically inclined and play on all the sports teams, and they'll have a lot of fun," Baldrige said. "But it won't be easy."
Rob Lippincott, a member of the board of trustees at Sidwell, where his daughter is a high school senior, said he could not confirm whether the Obama girls had chosen the school. But he said if so, students and parents will be excited.
"We're obviously delighted if that is the case. I have not heard anything officially," said Lippincott, senior vice president for education at PBS. "I'm certainly aware they came and visited. From everything I understand, they'd be a great addition to the school."
Associated Press writer Nafeesa Syeed contributed to this report.
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