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 days per week.