We have a busy week - this is the first of three visits. I am beginning to see familiar faces at the tours. Twice today I was asked if I had a boy or girl (?? trying to get a feel of competition).
Friend's School (K-8) is rooted in Quaker traditions. It's not a religious school however the following testimonies (or values) are taught: simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality and stewardship. Students participate in 'silent worship' and 'reflective pedagogy'.
The building - I mean wow and then some. Its absolutely astounding and its worth the tour alone. For those of you that don't know, it was the Levi's building before standing vacant for a number of years. It has been the home of Friends for about 11 years. The original floors, the exposed beams and the natural light that floods every nook and cranny is just amazing. The building is huge with a beautiful Meeting Room and a very open, airy feel. The classrooms did not strike me as huge.
The school is in the middle of a massive fundraising campaign to raise approximately 6.5 million dollars. Approximately four million will be used to complete the building restoration and the remaining 2.5 million is for the Friends Community Scholarship (more in a bit). So far they have raised approximately three million.
The school has about 430 students. There are two classes from K-4th grade and three from 5th - 8th grade. I missed how many kids are enrolled in each class (22??). For the younger kids there is one teacher and one assistant. For the older kids, its a teacher and the assistant splits time between two rooms.
The arts program seems phenomenal. There are two music teachers (one choral and one orchestra), a dance teacher, a drama teacher and two arts and crafts teachers. The kids get music twice weekly, dance once weekly and art twice weekly. The dance teacher spoke with us and they are currently learning about the origins of hip-hop and are working on Michael Jackson's thriller. There is also a garden which the first graders care for. The veggies from the garden are donated to a local soup kitchen. PE is twice weekly and there is both a formal gym in the school as well as a multi-purpose room.
There is no set computer room in the school as the whole school is equipped with wireless. In 5th and 6th grades there is a 2:1 ratio of laptops to students and 7th and 8th graders each have their own computer. There is also a new Ipad program this year for kindergarten, first and second. Classrooms for the middle school and up are equipped with smart boards.
Spanish is taught beginning in kindergarten with twice weekly classes (and then incorporated throughout the day) and then 4/week in the older grades.
There is an after school program until 6PM which consists of enrichment classes or playing in the designated areas (or study hall for older kids).
There is a full-time director of community engagement. The role of this person is to establish relationships in the community and create reciprocal learning opportunities for the students at Friends and neighborhood children and businesses. The Friends Community Scholarship is a scholarship program aimed at children of the neighborhood (and possibly reaching as far as bayview) that will cover 100% of all costs of their tuition at the school from grades five through eight. The scholarships will pay for extended day, camping trips...everything!!! I really feel as though the Friends school walks the walk and talks the talk.
As I have a few tours under my belt I am realizing that a lot depends on your tour leader. So, far we have had two great tours and one really poor tour. After this tour we heard from the head of lower school. She talked about autonomy but disappointingly did not get into curriculum or academics.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the Friends School??