Chicago City Day School Offers a Welcoming Culture, Academic Excellence

What makes a suburban parent commute an hour each way to send his children to Chicago City Day School? The school’s culture of kindness is just the beginning.

What makes a school special? For the Nisenboim family, the answer is two-fold: an exceptional academic experience plus a welcoming, nurturing school culture.

Frank Nisenboim, father of twin 10-year-olds, says that when his family moved to the northwest suburbs, they made the difficult decision to leave Chicago City Day School, a place his fifth-graders loved.

The change didn’t last long. “We were back at Chicago City Day School within a month,” says Nisenboim. “There was no comparison to my sons’ new school and City Day.”

Contrasting social experiences

Nisenboim says that right away, the differences between Chicago City Day School and his children’s new suburban school were apparent. “During recess and breaks, students at my sons’ new school picked up their cellphones and didn’t interact with each other,” he says. 

By contrast, Chicago City Day School does not allow cellphone usage during school hours. Plus, notes Nisenboim, interaction with all grade levels is not only encouraged but expected. 

“At Chicago City Day School, you can walk around the school at breaks and recess and see kids talking to each other in the cafeteria, working together in the library or playing kickball on the beautiful school grounds or new playground,” he says.

Nisenboim says he didn’t expect his twin boys to be so affected by their change of schools. “My sons missed everything about Chicago City Day School: the teachers, the facility, the school culture, the family-like atmosphere. It really feels more like a country day school – there is a small-town feeling that resonates.”

Comparing educational environments

Chicago City Day School
Photo Credit: Chicago City Day School

Right away, Nisenboim’s twins noticed a difference in the academic offerings at their new public school in the suburbs. For example, their new school did not offer foreign language classes to students prior to middle school. At Chicago City Day School, Nisenboim’s sons were already learning French and were disappointed that they had to stop.

“We also found that there was not the same level of algebra or geometry offered to the boys. The school also required no homework, which was something they were used to getting at Chicago City Day School. My sons felt like they weren’t being challenged and it made them feel frustrated and bored,” says Nisenboim.

At Chicago City Day School, Nisenboim says that students are expected to have a level of accountability that he feels benefits students. 

“Overall, the curriculum is much stronger, broader, more inclusive and just more challenging at Chicago City Day School,” he says. “Plus, I feel that there is a higher level of discipline expected from students at Chicago City Day.”

The Chicago City Day School culture of kindness and inclusion

Every student has different needs, both socially and academically. Nisenboim feels that Chicago City Day School is better equipped to handle both.

“One of my sons is shy and the other is outgoing. My son who is more shy needs more reassurance. Based on what I saw at our new school, I didn’t feel that he would get the same levels of attention or respect for his individual needs.”

In fact, Nisenboim cites this as a big reason why he wanted to return his sons to Chicago City Day.

“In part because it is a small school environment, the teachers at Chicago City Day get to know the students really well. They learn about the students in a way that is harder to do at a larger school. Having teachers who know and understand you helps kids grow and develop, not just academically, but personally.”

The impact of kindness, support and compassion turned out to be a pivotal factor in Nisenboim’s decision to return his children to Chicago City Day School. Besides the overall feeling of inclusiveness and friendliness, the school has a unique model that allows children to participate in all activities, whether sports or the arts. There are no tryouts and no auditions. Everyone is welcome and all kids get the same chance to explore their interests. 

Nisenboim feels this attitude of acceptance and community spirit has been helpful to his children. “My sons are involved in every event at Chicago City Day School – every concert, play, sports, festival and charity activity. For things like fundraisers, everyone gets involved and everyone participates, including parents. It’s a family-centric atmosphere where everyone feels part of the activity.”

Prioritizing culture over commute

The commute from their Chicago-area suburb to Chicago City Day School is at least an hour each way, but Niseboim says it’s worth it for what his sons receive in return. 

“The school is safe with secure entry points. It has beautiful outdoor spaces that feel like you’re in an English garden. It’s got a family atmosphere, a nurturing environment and exceptional academics. You can’t find anything else quite like it in the city or suburbs.”

Most importantly, Nisenboim feels that Chicago City Day School is steering his children into a bright future. “The JK-8 experience is the foundation of a child’s education,” he says. “It’s the time to build not just strong academics, but self-confidence. My sons get all of that at Chicago City Day School.”

For more information about the programs at Chicago City Day School, please visit chicagocityday.org.

Jennifer Kales
Jennifer Kales
Content editor Jennifer Kales has been in the business of writing for more than 20 years creating advertising copy, blogs, books and everything in between. She loves helping Chicago Parent clients tell their stories in a way that resonates with audiences.

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