As I read about the truly difficult process Oak Park is going through as it tries (hopefully) to provide a quality and inclusive education for all, it reminds me of how important it is for a community to have an array of educational options.
This is not a letter about why one option is superior to another. As parents always remark, no two children are alike, and finding the right school and fit for your child is challenging. A community needs good public schools and lots of other options as well.
When our children were young, my husband and I elected to send them to Ascension School, and people often ask us why, given our high property taxes. It wasn’t the plan when we moved here but we sent them there for preschool and found a safe, nurturing, and intellectually stimulating place for our children to grow and learn. It was a good fit for them.
As our children advanced through the years, we have realized that our financial sacrifice was worth it. The school offers incredible resources, including a brand-new flexible space for project-based learning, an exciting STEM program, a robotics team, as well as a strong curriculum enriched with daily exposure to Spanish language and the fine arts.
Like other Oak Park schools, the community represents the diversity that we value, and they strive to offer financial assistance to those who need it. In some ways, what I value most is Ascension’s commitment to their motto of “love, kindness, and respect,” which serves as the centerpiece of the school’s entire culture. From the incorporation of a formative bullying prevention program to the inclusive athletics policy, we have found that the commitment to environment as well as education is something that has benefited our children. Lastly, the school is known for a strong community that supports the teachers in caring for our kids and picking up ones that might need some extra support and love.
The point is that we need this diversity in our Oak Park educational ecosystem. I’m a huge supporter of public education (and have one child at OPRF High School now), but I also value having options to find the right fit for each child and am grateful that Oak Park is home to other choices like Ascension School. We need all the opportunities we can get in this task of parenting, growing kids to their potential, and building strong communities.
Maureen Heffern Ponicki