Schools in the South Loop Community

School Night at Overflow Coffee Bar

SLMNT hosted a wonderful event at Overflow Coffee Bar, 1550 S State, Thursday, June 23rd, and what a response from the group! South Loop Montessori School, set to open in late August in Dearborn Station, kicked off the evening with an informational overview of their administration and staff, as well as their experience in the Chicagoland area in working at and creating accredited Montessori programs, including teaching at Near North Montessori.

South Loop Montessori is looking to have a classroom for children as young as 15 months to 3 years, and then a three – six year old class. One of their lead teachers was able to describe different activities that children will do in their class, including pouring different substances such as sand, water or dry rice; playing bells to compose songs; and using activity boards to develop fine motor skills through snapping, buttoning, tying laces or zipping, as well as developing their senses through the different textures. The school will have two classrooms on the first floor, and children will be able to exit through the west side of the building to walk to Roosevelt Park to play outdoors every day! They are giving preference to families that will be able to grow with them, from when they enter the school until they turn six (the Kindergarten year), and have a limited number of spots (15 for the younger class, 30 for the older), so check the yahoo group site for contact information!

So many member mom’s were then able to speak to their experiences of having pre-schoolers and elementary aged children. Daystar School, located behind Overflow, is an established pre-school and elementary program that is Christian based and has an amazing curriculum that encourages children to learn by doing, to take weekly field trips, and to explore their world at home and school. In comparison, Akiba Schechter, located in Hyde Park, offers a pre-school program for children as young as two, and offers a play-based curriculum including building a garden! As member Anne pointed out, though, Akiba tends to have a number of students leave as they age, as it does offer classes in Hebrew once children reach First Grade.

City Garden and Urban Prairie are relatively new to the school scene, having been open for seven and three years, respectively, and located in East Pilsen, near University Village. They follow the century old Waldorf philosophy developed by Rudolph Steiner (and financed by the same people who developed the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel!), which includes looping – students stay with the same teacher throughout their time at school (3 – 6 year olds at City Garden, and First through Eighth grade at Urban Prairie); appealing to a child’s sense of rhythm by maintaining daily rituals through play, food and songs; and celebrating community through seasonal festivals.

Our neighborhood public school, South Loop Elementary School (SLES), is one of the top ten performing schools in the city, and has a pre-school located at 19th and Archer, nicknamed The Branch. The Early Childhood Center (ECC) draws families from throughout the city, due to it’s proximity to the Loop, and offers care from 8 am – 6 pm, but is flexible as to when children can enter and leave with their parents. The Kindergarten for SLES is housed in the same building, and was able to spread out this past year and offer three neighborhood classes (for students who live within the boundaries of the school). The main building houses the first through eighth grade at 1212 S Plymouth Court, and once the school day is over, the school offers amazing after school programs, from chess to Irish Dancing, Judo to traditional Indian dancing, as well as a wealth of activities for the older students, such as floor hockey, basketball and debate. The school was a pioneer to offer gifted classes alongside neighborhood ones. This means that there is one class for each grade of city wide students who have performed well on a test the previous year, and the neighborhood component is as many classes as are needed to provide for students who live south of Randolph, north of 18th Street, and east of Canal Street. While the gifted program can be demanding on students (and parents, in the form of homework), it does allow the teachers to collaborate so that students of all abilities can be challenged academically.

The take away? We have a great, eager group of parents whose children will be well provided for! You will explore these schools and more, and find the right match for your child, your family, and your schedule. Each of the schools has a range of times and days that they will take the children, as well as a variety of disciplines and curriculums. Take your time this fall to attend open houses and events at the schools that you are interested in, apply to those that you like, and follow up that application with a phone call. Yes, it’s like applying for a job, but this is the first time the school has seen you – just like corporations, they need to see that you are a good fit for their program, and remember you!

There were a few parents who weren’t able to join us, but have great things to say about their school experiences, including the Park District Programs at 18th and Indiana, Intercultural Montessori School, Old St. Mary’s School, and the area day care centers that offer pre-school programs for the older children. If you want us to read about your school, contact me and we’ll get your post in here!

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