Naperville and its neighboring communities are privileged to be served by a wide variety of public and private schools, serving students of all ages.
Primrose School at Naperville Crossings
Primrose School at Naperville Crossings, a daycare center, preschool and before- and after-school program, opened in August 2012. A national franchise based in Atlanta, the Naperville Crossings location of Primrose School is owned by Jennifer and Dan Fu. It currently boasts 40 staff members and 160 students ranging in age from six weeks to five years old, as well as before- and after-school students up to age 11.
“Parents love the fact that they can drop off all of their children here on their way to work, no matter their age, and we will transport the older children to their schools when it is time,” Jennifer Fu said. “Then we will pick them up at the end of the school day and they will all be in one place when the parent returns.”
Fu and her family moved to Naperville in 2009, specifically to build and open a Primrose School which they had learned about when their son attended one. Five years after opening, the school is well known among area parents and widely recommended by the parent grapevine, Fu said.
Primrose requires that there be one teacher for every four infants with a maximum of eight infants per classroom. Similarly, they require that in the preschool-age rooms there be one teacher for every 10 students and no more than 20 children per classroom, Fu noted.
“We hire specific teachers for specific age groups because we have found that teachers generally feel most comfortable with the specific age group of their choice,” Fu said.
In each classroom the teachers expose children to a variety of subjects, depending on their age and abilities. Their youngest learners are exposed to art, sign language, simple vocabulary, classroom rules and social skills like kindness and respect. Two-year-olds work on potty training, as well as letter recognition, counting and sorting and fine motor skills like tracing and cutting. Preschoolers expand on those skills and also experience more of a classroom environment with circle time, individual jobs, Spanish language and even literary concepts.
Founded in Atlanta in 1982, Primrose now proudly boasts nearly 350 schools in 29 states. Each school is independently-owned and operated. Franchise owners partner with parents to help children build the right foundation for future learning and life.
“The first five years of life provide an unparalleled opportunity to set children up for lifelong success,” added Jo Kirchner, CEO of Primrose Schools.
Naperville boasts two Compass School locations, one-third of those currently available nationally. The other four privately-owned schools are located in Ohio and Virginia, according to Erica Farney, executive director of the Compass School at 3030 Reflection Dr. It has been operating for eight years while the first Compass School in Naperville – located at 1128 Compass Ct. – has been in place for 16 years.
“We expand to communities where we feel there are parents who are familiar with our educational philosophy and will financially support it,” Farney said.
Both locations care for and educate children between the ages of six weeks and kindergarten, as well as providing before- and after-school care and summer camp programs for children up to the age of 12.
The Reflection Drive location’s staff of approximately 40 currently cares for 200 students on a daily basis from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Farney said.
Compass Schools follow the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education, developed in northern Italy and used locally in several well-known “lab schools.” This educational system is commonly recognized as one of the best programs for young children worldwide because it is child-centered and not handed down from a far-off corporate office, Farney said.
Teachers in Compass Schools view every child as strong, capable, independent, curious and full of imagination and they empower their students to think, question, investigate, explore and help navigate the journey of learning.
Compass teachers observe and document the interactions, discussions and fascinations of children. By developing learning opportunities from these observations, the curriculum “emerges” from children’s interests and ideas.
Educators then deliver this emergent curriculum through project work, which allows children to explore these areas of interest in detail. Teachers introduce a broad range of opportunities, from art to music to early language, math, science and nature experiences, in support of the project. By exploring projects of children’s interest in great detail, children are excited by the learning process. This enthusiasm for knowledge, combined with the ability to experience project work in detail, will foster a predisposition for lifelong learning.
For instance, one local pre-school classroom is doing a project on teeth – thoroughly exploring the subject using math, science, art, literature and guest speakers. It has even led them to a study of foods and how dental care differs from country to country.
A toddler classroom, on the other hand, might use the same approach to do a less in-depth study using balls of various sizes, colors, ages, materials and textures.
The Avery Coonley School
Venerable, yet progressive, are the best ways to describe the Avery Coonley School in Downers Grove, which caters to gifted students in pre-school through eighth grade.
The school was opened by Queene Ferry Coonley in Riverside in 1906 because she wanted a progressive school for her gifted kindergarten-aged daughter and grades were added as her daughter grew. The school moved to Downers Grove in 1929 where it has remained.
Today the independent school serves 350 students from 60 different zip codes within the Chicago metropolitan area. Most live within a 30-minute radius but the largest number come from Downers Grove, Naperville and Hinsdale, according to Rebecca Malotke-Meslin, director of admission and financial aid.
“Our mission is to teach an enhanced and enriched curriculum to gifted and talented students. Most of them are two to three years ahead of their peers but here they enjoy an entire class of like-minded students and we are able to serve their unique needs,” she said.
The Avery Coonley School initiates IQ testing during kindergarten, using psychologists in the area to do the testing, which is specially designed for young children. While kindergarten is the school entry point for most students, Malotke-Meslin said they generally accept two or three more children per year in each successive grade, based on available space.
“Gifted children present a whole host of special gifts and issues like intensities, perfectionism and passion and our accelerated, cross-curricular curriculum, along with enrichment activities, are able to meet their needs on all levels,” she added. “We take a whole child approach by integrating arts, drama, music and physical education into our curriculum to make learning more meaningful for these students who are ready for learning much earlier than their peers.”
“We work hard to serve the needs of this niche population who go on to local public and private high schools, as well as to prestigious boarding schools after graduation,” Malotke-Meslin added.