Everything You Need to Know about Public and Private Elementary Schools in Wilmette
By: Rebecca Lee
District 39 elementary schools, like all other public schools of the North Shore, are among the best of the state and even the country. Yet, many parents choose to send their young children to local private schools, which often meet the various unique needs of students in ways even the most well-resourced public education cannot.
If you are a Wilmette parent of an elementary aged child, and you are exploring all of his or her options, here’s what you need to know:
D39 Elementary Schools
The majority of Wilmette students are serviced by District 39 schools. Only the northwestern area of Wilmette goes to District 37/Avoca/Marie Murphy Schools instead. In D39, there are four public elementary schools that service grades K-4: Central, Harper, McKenzie, and Romona! Children attend a school based on the location of their homes. This being said, all four schools offer equally rigorous and diverse education, and have been recognized throughout the state and country. In fact, Central and Romona have both received the prestigious Blue Ribbon School! After 4th grade, all D39 students join together at Highcrest Middle School for 5th and 6th grades and then move to Wilmette Junior High for 7th and 8th grades.
The elementary education of District 39 is made up of a curriculum map, which dictates the topics of Math, General Music, Physical Education, Science, Social Studies, Spanish, and Technology to be covered throughout the year. Teachers can control the timing and sequence of these topics based on the needs of their students. In fact, District 39 encourages teachers to not only assess but appreciate differences among students and adjust instruction to maximize their learning and growth. In addition, students regularly work in the library and attend art classes, both of which are exceptionally well-resourced. As students progress from first to fourth grade, they are exposed to different and more elevated material that prepares them for middle school.
The Parent Teacher Association at each school provides crucial support. Such relationships between parents and the schools are unique to public education at District 39. Specifically, these volunteers are responsible for the fundraising to support numerous field trips, guest speakers, events, and extracurriculars that enrich the education of students. Throughout the school year, students can join groups from Math Team to Robotics Club, take classes such as Cooking or Beading, and play sports and games before and after school. Events such as the International Festival at Romona teach students about the world around them in an interactive and exciting way.
The kind of well-resourced public education offered at District 39 elementary schools is very difficult to find elsewhere, which is why so many families move here to raise their children!
The Cove School
In 1947, The Cove School was the first school in the country built exclusively for the education of children with learning disabilities. Originally founded as a residential facility for young children, the school later added a day program and a high school program and moved locations several times as enrollment grew. Ten years ago, The Cove School moved to its current location in Northbrook.
The Cove School, approved by the Illinois State Board of Education, serves approximately one hundred and fifty students from all over Chicagoland area. These students, who could not learn and thrive in other academic environments, find Cove to be a safe haven. To meet each and every need of each and every student, the academic program at Cove is based on small classroom sizes and a strong faculty. A specialized teacher and his or her assistant, supported by a speech and language pathologist, social worker, reading specialist, occupational therapist, and technology specialist, teach a class of approximately ten students. The teacher and specialists often teach together, and occasionally the specialists work with students in small groups outside of the classroom. Furthermore, the recently renovated campus of The Cove School provides students with spaces to exercise, socialize, express themselve, meet with social workers, receive therapy, and even explore potential career paths. As a result of such a strongly equipped faculty and state-of-the-art facility, education at The Cove School addresses not only academic but emotional and social growth of children, which is especially crucial to develop throughout elementary school.
Additionally, students at The Cove School are offered a wide range of extracurriculars! The Fine Art Department specifically offers classes such as drawing and printmaking, as well as music and dance programs that encourage students to perform. Students of all ages can also play on athletic teams, participate in the student council, contribute to the school newspaper and yearbook, or plan for Prom on a committee. All of these extracurriculars are overseen by highly qualified faculty members, who work to foster not only ability, but cognitive and emotional growth of students. Furthermore, to encourage community between families, the school hosts events such as the Cove 5K Run-Walk and Bowling Night.
Most students of The Cove School are funded by their home school districts. Those who pay tuition privately pay $39,500 a year. Financial assistance, payment plans, and scholarships are available to those who qualify.
Baker Demonstration School
Baker Demonstration School was founded as the laboratory school of National Louis University. In 2005, Baker became an independent school that currently serves approximately 360 preschool to middle school-aged students from all over the area!
Baker offers a progressive education, which fosters the physical, social, emotional, and cultural development of each student through hands-on teaching that challenges and cultivates.
Specifically, students of first through fifth grades are taught through a curriculum that coordinates all classes from Music to Mathematics to Reading to present one topic in a variety of ways. In doing so, the curriculum ensures that students expand the width and especially the depth of their knowledge! This has proven especially effective at Baker, where the student to faculty ratio approximates 9 to 1. In addition to core academic classes, students participate in physical education everyday and Spanish class two days a week. They also regularly attend music and art classes, work in the library, and use technology to supplement instruction. Baker also houses a state-of-the-art science lab, a swimming pool, an art studio, a music and drama suite, an auditorium, and a gardening and compost center!
Yearly tuition for elementary school students ranges from approximately $18,000 to approximately $20,000. Because Baker seeks to serve a socioeconomically diverse student body, the school offers financial assistance to those who demonstrate the need. This being said, Baker maintains a small and select student body, so the application and admission process is quite thorough!
St. Francis Xavier School & St. Joseph School
St. Francis Xavier School (a Blue Ribbon school) and St. Joseph School both offer education that emphasizes academic excellence and social awareness in a distinctly Catholic environment. The core curriculums of both elementary schools are made up of Language Arts, Math, Science, Religion, and Social Studies.
Specifically, the curriculums are designed to support students of a wide range of learning aptitudes. At St. Francis Xavier, students who are deemed gifted are placed in elevated math classes so that they are appropriately challenged. At St. Joseph, beginning in third grade, students are grouped in every subject according to ability, which again ensures that they are appropriately challenged. Science and Social Studies teachings are dictated by a curriculum based on Catholic values. Additional music, technology, Spanish, and physical education classes are offered.
St. Joseph uniquely offers a number of organized service opportunities to students throughout the school year, as service is an aspect of the school’s mission. Similarly, clubs at St. Francis Xavier are dedicated to community service. Both schools also offer extracurriculars such as Girls on the Run, concert bands, student council and Cub Scouts. An integral part of Catholic elementary education is the development of the spiritual lives of children. Students participate in regular Mass, study Religion, and receive Communion and eventually Confirmation.
Yearly tuition at St. Francis Xavier costs approximately $6,160 for one enrolled child. Additional fees support the use of technology and purchase supplies. Yearly tuition at St. Joseph costs approximately $5,630 with an additional fee for technology use. Both schools offer payment plans.