Navigating an open house - Communities

Navigating an open house - Communities

10.14.2010 | pioneer press newspapers SPECIAL AVERTISING SECTION

central | private schools | 1

Navigating an

open house

by Tracy Evans Boyd

Special to Pioneer Press

The fall is a time of academic reflection

for many families, and for those considering

private schools, the season of open houses

begins. Just as every student has more to

offer than a series of transcripts and letters

of recommendation, each private school

presents a unique learning environment and

an opportunity for your child to grow

socially and intellectually.


What schools expect of you

The applicant process will provide a

chance for the student to meet with admissions

representatives and essentially

breathe life into their transcript. More than

anything else, schools are looking for

enthusiasm for the school’s mission and a

candidate that plans to contribute to the


“We really look for evidence of academic

motivation,” says Dr.Antoinette Bouillette,

principal of Trinity High School in River

Forest.“We value applicants that express a

desire to do their very best, to work hard

and be a part of the school — something

that is not always expressed in test scores

alone.We look for a well-rounded student,

with a variety of interests.”

The interview process is the time for

pointing out achievements beyond academics,

and for voicing areas of specific interest.

Since many private schools have the funds

for more niche clubs and areas of academic

focus, admissions reps want to hear how

your child will uniquely contribute to the


“Usually in an interview, I ask them a

series of questions about their likes and

dislikes, their goals, their passions,” says

Dean Loring Strudwick of Lake Forest

Academy, who often pushes students to

envision themselves in four years, or in a

career, even before they enter high school.

“I hope students can demonstrate their

desire to meet new challenges with enthusiasm

and determination.”

Private schools typically embrace a mission

statement that aims to develop the

whole child as an active, contributing member

of the academic community.The success

of this philosophy requires mutual

respect and commitment between the student’s

family and the institution.

“Our purpose is to try and make sure

that the prospective parents’ goals for their

child align with our goals,” explains

Brickton Montessori School’s Director of

Advancement, Molly Arnoldt.“We want to

enroll mission-appropriate families with a

mutual understanding of expectations.”


What to ask of schools

The open house, offered throughout the

fall as a precursor to winter application

deadlines, is only one way to gain a better

understanding of the potential school.

“We consider tours mandatory for parents,

to view the classrooms in session,”

says Executive Director Catherine Hart of

“I hope students can demonstrate

their desire to meet

new challenges with enthusiasm

and determination.”

— Dean Loring Strudwick

Lake Forest Academy

Oak Park and River Forest Day Nursery, an

option for parents of children between two

and five years of age.“Parents are looking

for safety and cleanliness.They want to see

how their child will socialize with other

continued on page 2



1. Examine the facilities, both

classrooms and conduits.Ask

about past or future improvements.

2. Look for the teacher-to-student

ratio. How involved are the

students in the learning process,

and how does the classroom

dynamic influence learning?

3. Does the school take steps to

minimize the spread of germs

and to promote a healthy

lifestyle? How clean are the

shared spaces, and does food

service offer balanced, nutritious

menu options?

4. How does the school’s mission

statement foster individual

achievement? What types of reinforcement

and rewards do you

see for students?

5. Review their resources and

technology.What is available to

help the students achieve their

goals (computers, electronic


6.Are students involved in nonacademic

activities? Are there

mandatory gym sessions or community

service requirements?

7. How does the class keep

pace? Do teachers encourage

interaction, and is there a strong

understanding of the course

materials in the class meetings?

8. How does the school support

academic difficulties or challenges

to learning? Do you see

after-hours workspaces and

library aids accessible to students?

9.What types of professional

development is offered to the

teachers? How do they stay current

and engage students in the


10. Speak with at least one set of

parents and a few current students

about the school’s community

life.Their feedback is sure to

be the most honest and most

helpful in making your decision.

2 |private schools | central SPECIAL AVERTISING SECTION

pioneer press newspapers | 10.14.2010

Honors & gifted programs

Learning Enrichment Center

One-to-one computing in our fully wireless environment

Nearly 100% college acceptance

All athletes practice on our 22-acre campus

30 clubs/orgs & 7 honor societies

Catholic, Co-ed Secondary School

More info:

Valerie Reiss, Dir. Admissions


Open House

Sun., Nov. 21

11 a.m. 2 p.m.

(last tour 1 p.m.)

Mon., Nov. 22

6 p.m. 8 p.m.

(last tour 7 p.m.) 8001 W. Belmont, River Grove

continued from page 1

children.Above all, it’s important for parents

to interview me and to find out the background

of the staff.”

Seeking accreditation at all school levels

can help parents ensure a high caliber of

learning opportunities for their children.At

Montessori schools, for example, a consistent

quality of certified staff and specialized

curriculum characterize the school’s name.

Classroom observation is another way

parents can gage the level and quality of

interaction between students and teachers.

Examine the opportunities for independent

thought on the part of the student and the

teaching methods used in presenting the

resources available. Ultimately, parents

should ask themselves if their student be

able to flourish under these circumstances.

“What they want to look for is the attitude

of the administration toward the student,”

Bouillette says.“Parents should have a

feeling that everyone involved is focused on

the child’s success. For our adolescents,

who are really finding their way intellectually,

they are trying to identify and play up

their strengths. It’s the job of us adults to

help them in this search.”


Reading a child’s feelings

As more private schools are noting a

shift in the decision process from parent to

student, many are encouraging tours for the

Guerin College

Preparatory High School

8001 W. Belmont Ave. in River Grove

(708) 452-6233

Fax (708) 453-6296

Construction fences greet students and

visitors to Guerin College Preparatory High

School these days when they come on campus.

Significant renovations to the Holy Cross

building and surrounding fields are hiding

behind those fences.

A new fitness center is nearing completion

that will serve all Guerin Prep’s athletic teams

as well as the physical education classes.

Improvements also are under way in the

gymnasium itself, including a refurbished and

repainted gym floor, painting of walls and

bleachers and reconfiguration of the former

stage area into a batting cage location. Other

developments included renovated restrooms

near the gym, a lift into the gym, restored

walkways and the addition of outdoor signage.

This summer, Guerin Prep upgraded the

football/soccer and baseball fields and

installed a safety fence for the stadium field

area on its 22-acre campus.

Guerin Prep offers three college prep curriculums,

which include honors and advanced

placement courses as well as experiential

learning opportunities for high-achieving students

as well as a more structured course of

study for students needing special assistance.

child on their own.An opportunity for

complete immersion into student life might

be just enough for a child to determine if a

particular school is the best fit for them.

“The more comfortable a child is, the

easier it will be for them to learn,” says

Bouillette, of Trinity’s Shadow Days, where

the candidates follow two current students

to feel how the community supports their


According to Dean Strudwick, that means

the parents should feel their own values

echoed in that of the school:“I think the

family must feel comfortable with the overall

feel of the campus and community, with

having their child nurtured and mentored

by the faculty and student body.”

Even as young as nursery school, children

instinctively know when the classroom is

the right fit.

“It’s a good idea for the child to see what

we’re all about and if it’s some place they

want to be.We find that after a short time,

even the most hesitant child really wants to

stay and play,” Hart says.

“Remember the most important factor in

selecting a school,” Arnoldt advises parents

on finding what she refers to as the students

second home.“You know your child

best and if you listen to your heart and go

with your gut about what is right for your

family- you won’t go wrong.”

With a little soul searching, your family

will find a school that passes the test. · PP

Local private schools provide unprecedented education.

Guerin Prep is now in its fourth year of a

one-to-one computing program where all


Trinity High School

7574 W. Division St. in River Forest

(708) 453-8342

Trinity High School, based in River Forest

and founded in 1918 by the Dominican

Sisters of Sinsinawa,Wisc., challenges young

women to be confident, accomplished and

unique through a curriculum designed to prepare

them for a life of significance.Trinity’s

academics, co-curricular activities, athletics

and service opportunities provide students

with a foundation for new adventures in education

and life.

The International Baccalaureate Program,

the College-Preparatory Program, block

scheduling, an exclusive collaboration with

Dominican University and a single-gender

environment are just a part of what makes

Trinity the best choice for a young woman’s


Trinity recognizes the importance of building

a culture of strength and wellness for all

students. Coming soon to Trinity is a health

and fitness center specifically designed for

young women.The creation of this facility —

which will include a cardio and strength fitness

studio, health education center, a

dance/Pilates/yoga studio and nutrition program

— is integral to the fulfillment of

Trinity’s mission.

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