The Children's School will be moving in to First Baptist Church of Oak Park for the upcoming school year. | Provided

After months of searching, The Children’s School has found a new home in Oak Park and will be relocating in the Fall for the 2023-24 school year. 

The school will be moving to the school portion of First Baptist Church of Oak Park, 820 Ontario St. The facility is on the north edge of Scoville Park. 

The move comes after months of searching due to the lease not being renewed at their current location, the old St. Edmund School, 200 S. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park, where the school had been for the previous five years. 

Hoping to find a new location in time for the new school year, the school launched a search for a new facility in January, evaluating more than 36 properties according to the press release received from First Baptist Church of Oak Park. 

After having a tour and upon further discussion, Freese said they realized the missions of both the school and church lined up, creating a real possibility for a partnership. 

According to Freese, renovations have already begun, and they are “all systems go,” to get everything up and running for the new school year. 

As they start making plans to move, Freese said she is excited to be able to have a sense of normalcy and be able to return their attention to the students. 

“Getting back to doing what we do, this has been tremendously disruptive as you might have imagined,” Freese said. “We are looking forward to getting back that stability for families, for students, so that they can know what to expect … that felt so uncertain for families and that is not what you want around school.” 

The school has already begun creating happy memories at the new space, celebrating this year’s graduation onsite. 

“It was amazing,” Freese said. “Really, powerful. We were so happy to have some of their parishioners there, they have been so welcoming. It feels really good.”

“Our committee of directors, board members, and parents identified First Baptist Church of Oak Park as the most suitable for our needs in terms of location and space,” said Sandi Carr, president of the school’s board, in the press release. “We enjoy a productive relationship with the leadership of First Baptist as we work together on the renovations necessary to meet our needs.” 

Christina Martin, the school’s curriculum director, said the building, with some renovations, would be perfect for the curriculum taught at the school, which is child-centered, play-and project-based, and allows for a democratic approach to teaching and learning. 

According to Freese, the building was originally built as a school and had classrooms in place, but renovations will help bring the sizes up to match more contemporary classroom sizes. 

Additionally, gender-neutral bathrooms and accessible bathrooms are also being added. 

“First Baptist has proven a tremendous partner in this, they’ve already begun, so as soon as possible, we are going to keep intentions to get this done as quickly as possible,” Freese said, adding there will also be contingency plans in case the space is not ready by the start of the new school year. 

Pastor David John Hailey, First Baptist Church of Oak Park, said the church is looking forward to continuing their mission.

“First Baptist has been educating children since 1927 through the First Baptist Church Preschool and Kindergarten. This school has been an integral part of our mission because we take Jesus’ words seriously, “Let the children come to me, and do not stop them, for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs,” Hailey said. “Adding The Children’s School allows us to expand our mission to educate children.”

Earlier this year, the Archdiocese of Chicago declined to renew the lease for the school, citing maintenance concerns that would not be able to be fixed. In a newsletter emailed to parishioners, Rev. Rex Pillai, pastor of Ascension and St. Edmund, and Rev. Carl Morello, pastor of St. Catherine-St. Lucy and St. Giles, informed parishioners of the extensive repairs needed. 

“Recently we learned that the building is in need of extensive repairs, repairs which our parish is unable to finance,” read the newsletter. “Our parish is also unable to financially manage the risk associated with this building while occupied by the school.” 

Being denied a lease extension surprised Pamela Freese, director of administration at The Children’s School, who previously told Wednesday Journal they were under the impression that the lease would be renewed.

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