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School Spotlight: Courtenay Planting Seeds in Community

By Patty Wetli | Friday, May 11, 2012

Courtenay Language Arts Center. Credit: Ingrid Bonne Photography

With an enrollment of fewer than 200 students, Courtenay Language Arts Center, 1726 W. Berteau, is the little elementary that could. “We’re a great school that just isn’t recognized,” says Cassandra Vickars, mother to a third- and fifth-grader at the school, and one of the founders of the newly formed Friends of Courtenay group.

Recent ISAT scores indeed indicate a high-performing school: Courtenay students top CPS averages in math, reading and science.  Overall, 90.7 percent of students meet or exceed standards in all subjects. That’s the kind of news FOC would like to spread.

“A lot of people don’t even realize it’s a school when they walk by,” says Vickars. One of FOC’s goals is to raise the school’s profile among residents of the surrounding neighborhood. The group’s first event was an Earth Day project, building planter beds and a butterfly garden and generally demonstrating a presence in the community.

This Saturday, May 12, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., FOC is hosting a plant swap in the school’s parking lot in conjunction with the 47th Ward Office. “It’s more of a neighborhood outreach effort,” says Vickars.

Like other “Friends of” organizations, FOC is also focused on fundraising. Courtenay Fest, scheduled for June 2 at the school, has all the elements of a block party – food, music, games – with a silent auction thrown in for good measure. Money will go toward an outdoor classroom, intended as a companion to a new playground, under construction this summer.

“It’s a nice thing for kids to be outside,” Vickars says. It also makes it mighty hard for people to overlook the school in their midst.

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