Our History & Campus

Our History & Campus


In 1934, a collection of families from Vassar College wanted something distinctly different for their children. They wanted to create a school that honored childhood, took notice of emerging theories about learning, and respected creativity while fostering democracy and intellectual effort.

Students in those early years built colonial log houses, played on a tire swing, went pond dipping and learned to read and write. They learned how to use hammers and saws and work with wood. They acted in plays and pageants and wrote stories and letters to the White House. They built structures with wooden blocks, went on field trips, and learned folk songs. Our curriculum and pedagogical practices have evolved considerably over the course of 90 years, but many of these early childhood activities continue on.

A high school was added in 1970, allowing students to go from middle school into a demanding writing-intensive setting that stresses critical thinking, teamwork, problem-solving, and an inquiry-based approach in all disciplines.

1934 – Poughkeepsie Day School is founded by 28 families from Vassar College. Located on the corner of Hooker and South Grand Avenues, it opens with 35 students in Kindergarten through Grade 8 and a faculty of three, including Elizabeth Gilkeson, who was the school’s director from 1935-49. The school is part of the progressive educational movement built on the educational philosophy of John Dewey and the work of pioneer educators who trusted children as intellectual and creative learners.

– A pre-school is added.

1940 – Grade 9 is added.

1963 – The school constructs a new building on the southeast corner of the Vassar College campus. The 20,000 square-foot structure, at 39 New Hackensack Road, becomes home to the School for the next 35 years.

1970 – Grades 10 through 12 are added.

1994 – The school purchases Kenyon House and its adjoining 15 acres from IBM.

1995 – The middle and high school divisions move to Kenyon House. The lower school remains at “39.”

1998 – The school purchases and renovates the former IBM briefing center and its adjacent 20 acres, reuniting the school on one campus. The building is renamed the Elizabeth C. Gilkeson Center in honor of the late founding director.

2000 – The theater is officially dedicated as the James Earl Jones Theater.

2017 – The school completes the Green Futures Campaign, upgrading the Gilkeson Center to be more energy efficient.

2020 – The school closes due to financial issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

2021 – The school reopens with an updated mission by PDS alumni, faculty, and volunteers.

2024 – The school embarks on PDS Grow, a strategic plan with a new community-focused vision for Poughkeepsie Day School, blending the best practices from throughout our history with the emerging needs of our children and the world.


Poughkeepsie Day School’s 35-acre campus is located on Boardman Road in the Town of Poughkeepsie, NY. The school is housed in the contemporary, one-story Elizabeth C. Gilkeson Center. It contains the 300-seat, James Earl Jones Theater, a regulation-size gymnasium, an art room, two science labs, a dance studio, and two music rooms, one with a recording studio.