A new middle school that emphasizes one-on-one instruction and independent study is likely headed to Hinsdale this summer.
Nurturing Wisdom Academy plans to open in August at the currently empty Zion Lutheran School at 2nd and Vine streets and serve a maximum of 36 fifth- through eighth-graders with a customized education plan they may not be receiving in their current schools.
Nurturing Wisdom wants to attract students that might not be served by typical curriculum, Nurturing Wisdom president Pari Schacht said, whether they have learning disabilities that make standard curriculum difficult, or if they're advanced learners who need more challenging curriculum.
“We like to say it’s for students whose gifts are not being realized in a traditional classroom,” Schacht said.
Nurturing Wisdom has been serving west-suburban students as an in-home private tutor service for the last seven years. It serves the Chicago and San Francisco areas, according to its website. The Hinsdale academy would be the Nurturing Wisdom’s first school.
“In the future we hope it will be one of several,” said vice president Amanda Vogel, who will serve as the Hinsdale school's director.
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Schacht said she thinks Hinsdale is a great location because there is, in her opinion, a lack of local private schools. Nurturing Wisdom is targeting Hinsdale students as well as those from Burr Ridge, Clarendon Hills, Downers Grove, and other towns in the surrounding area.
In addition to preparing students for high school with instruction in traditional subjects like science and history, a significant portion of students’ class time will be devoted to an independent study of their choosing.
“In this additional time, instead of everyone taking the same music class, [students] can pick the things they’re most interested in to dive into more deeply,” Vogel said.
The independent study program is the biggest difference between Nurturing Wisdom and traditional middle schools, Vogel said. But it’s not the only difference.
Students at Nurturing Wisdom will experience a longer-than-normal school day that begins at 8:15 a.m. and ends at 4:15 p.m. Students will do all their work at school and will not be assigned homework.
Nurturing Wisdom’s calendar will include 200 attendance days, 22 more than District 181 public schools plan to have next school year. Instead of a typical two-plus-month summer vacation, students will get only four weeks off. However, there will be a one-week break every six to eight weeks during the year.
Schacht, a former teacher, said the more spread out school calendar will benefit students as well as faculty.
“As teachers you get so burned out,” she said, referring to the normal school calendar. “You just don’t have those breaks.”
Staffing at Nurturing Wisdom will fluctuate as need be, but the school will likely have between three and 10 teachers, Vogel said. Some of the faculty will be tutors already employed and used by Nurturing Wisdom. They will be overseen administratively by Vogel and current tutoring director Alyssa DeCesari.
Teachers at the school will be tasked with coming up with their own curriculum, and the independent study emphasis allows faculty to focus on students, one at a time.
“If a student is busy doing some independent work, that means the teacher can be working with someone else,” Vogel said.
Nurturing Wisdom’s move to Hinsdale is not yet finalized from a zoning perspective.
Keith Larson, who heads ’s property board, confirmed that Nurturing Wisdom is planning to use several existing classrooms at the church’s empty school building, but said the church and school still need to get the blessing of the village.
At Wednesday’s Plan Commission meeting, a public hearing for Nurturing Wisdom’s special-use permit application will likely be set for June 13.
According to Nurturing Wisdom’s application included in Wednesday’s Plan Commission agenda packet, the academy plans to use two or three of 17 classrooms at the Zion building as well as the school's gym.
The application also says that though Nurturing Wisdom hopes to enroll 36 students, it does not expect to hit that number in its first year.
Schacht and Vogel did not say what Nurturing Wisdom's tuition would be. They said that’s something staff prefers to discuss with interested parents.
Those interested in finding out more information can visit Nurturing Wisdom Academy’s website. Nurturing Wisdom is holding an information session regarding the academy on May 22 at Flagg Creek Golf Course in Indian Head Park. The session is open to the public and begins at 11 a.m.