Families Together Cooperative Nursery School (FTCNS) provides a play-based educational environment in which children thrive and parents are integral to the life of the school. At our core is a commitment to diversity and equity, genuine collaboration between educators, families and children, and a creative and flexible approach to supporting each child’s cognitive, social and emotional growth.
FTCNS is highly regarded as a unique educational program recognized for excellence in:
- Providing a joyful early school experience for young children in a welcoming facility with a nearby playground and large outdoor space.
- Providing an affordable, high‐quality education through sliding scale tuition, financial aid, and school-wide fundraising efforts.
- Operating as a well-run cooperative in which a close-knit, diverse community of engaged parents work collaboratively to ensure smooth daily operations by actively participating in school governance, volunteering in the classroom, and contributing to school fundraising efforts.
- Offering young children a play‐based experience based on an emergent curriculum developed in response to the children’s needs and interests.
- Demonstrating a deep commitment to diversity and equity through intentional educational practices and hiring, admissions, and financial policies that welcome families from a variety of socioeconomic, ethnic, cultural, religious, and family backgrounds.
- Supporting parents of young children by providing informative, engaging parent education activities and materials.
- Integrating environmentally sustainable practices and healthy food options into daily school activities and operations.
- Promoting professional growth for the school’s staff by providing funds that support their individual and group development plans.
A Brief History
Want to know more about how Families Together came to be? Well let’s travel back in time!
The very beginning: the school that would eventually become Families Together Cooperative Nursery School (FTCNS) began more than 30 years ago in Evanston, when a community parent and tot playgroup decided to take steps to become a formal cooperative school. The group had a deep desire to be involved in their children’s education and became licensed as the Evanston Cooperative Nursery School (ECNS).
Moving and merging: In the late 1990s, due to building issues, ECNS needed a new home. At this time, parents from Immanuel Lutheran Church’s parent and tot program in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood, known as the “Together Program,” wanted to start a cooperative nursery school to be housed at Immanuel Lutheran. Michelle Knapp, the Together Program founder, suggested the group’s parents observe other area co-ops to find a strong model. One parent observed ECNS and learned it was looking for a new home in either Evanston or Chicago. After a search in both cities, the ECNS Board chose Immanuel Lutheran as the new home for its co-op.
A new home and new name: In September 1999 Families Together Cooperative Nursery School opened at Immanuel Lutheran as a licensed nursery school offering a single Mixed Age program. By 2001, due to parent demand, FTCNS had expanded to offer morning Nursery programs and an afternoon Pre-K program. A Young 3s program was added in 2004.
Meeting today’s needs: Today our school serves 90 students a year in its five classes and auxiliary programs. We have revamped our class offerings to offer a wider variety of options to families and have renamed the classes with tree names to reflect our growing commitment to exploration of the natural world. We are a proud, engaged, collaborative community. Families Together Cooperative Nursery School is children, parents and teachers together – learning both ABOUT and FROM one another.
Preschool in the age of COVID-19: Families Together closed in-person classes in mid-March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Our teachers began online classes for students and finished out the school year via Zoom. In Fall of 2020, Families Together is open for in-person school and fully compliant with the latest city and state health and safety regulations. The school features: small classes of 12-15 children in a “two-room schoolhouse” with huge classrooms and great ventilation; an accessible, FTCNS-dedicated outdoor space where we spend lots of time playing each day; masking requirements for staff and students, intensive daily cleaning/disinfection, and daily health checks for staff and students and daily health checks for staff and students. We have a commitment to stay open during Phase 3 and 4 and pivot quickly to distance-learning if the city returns to Phase 2. For students who are not able to attend our in-person classes, we are offering an online option, Birches, 3 or 4 days per week. We appreciate the willingness of our families and staff to commit to limit their exposure and travel, comply with all city quarantine requirements, and stay home if anyone in their family is having COVID symptoms.