History of Chicago Friends School
Chicago Friends School first began in 2009, when a group of local Quakers and like-minded parents began to discuss their desire to see a Quaker school in Chicago. Their vision was of a school that valued the whole child and taught students to develop spiritually, academically, creatively with instruction tailored according to each student’s developmental needs.
After a year of dedicated planning and design, Chicago Friends School opened up in 2010 in a storefront on Belmont Avenue as a one-room schoolhouse serving students from age 3 to 11. It used project-based instruction and worked with each child to achieve the school’s aims. Despite programmatic successes, after a year at the Belmont location, the school community knew it needed to find a new location and consider the sustainability of its model and how best to grow. The board decided to take a year off and think more deeply about the school model and lessons learned from a year in operation.
Chicago Friends School reopened in 2012 in its current location on Thorndale Avenue in Edgewater. At that time, it was a six-student, K–1 school. The goal was to build up the student body grade by grade until Chicago Friends School grew into its maturity as a vibrant, K–8 school serving students from all over Chicago. Consistent with the school’s size and the Quaker commitment to community, all non-teaching school functions were done by board members and dedicated parent volunteers.
Now in its sixth year of operation at the Thorndale location, the school serves grades K–6 in four classrooms. It has four homeroom teachers, a head of school, six part-time special-subject instructors, and several part-time workers who provide before- and after-school care and help with other functions of the school. But it retains a deep reliance on community. Parents and other volunteers serve in crucial roles such as fundraising, marketing, admissions, and maintaining the school’s community garden.
As the school grows, we are continuing to refine the program, identify resources to help the school further its impact, engage in our community, and help students to grow into their whole selves. In 2017, the school initiated its first-ever strategic planning process and is working on refining our vision for the next steps of growth. We’re excited about our future and hope you are, too.