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Edgewater’s Helen C. Peirce School Celebrates 100 Years


Photo Courtesy Peirce School

It was named for a woman who helped make kindergarten a fully funded standard in Chicago Public Schools. Now, 100 years after it opened its doors, Helen C. Peirce School of International Studies will celebrate the impact of its namesake and those who helped her make it possible with an open house, historical displays and dinner on Saturday.

“Helen C. Peirce had a commitment to service in Chicago through the Lake View Woman’s Club,” Principal Lorianne Zaimi said. “She was a believer in education.”

The Edgewater school’s centennial event will include an open house from 1 to 4 p.m. at the campus and a dinner buffet at the Mundelein Center at the Loyola Lakeshore Campus, 1020 W. Sheridan Road, from 7 to 10 p.m. The fundraiser is selling dinner tickets with a cash bar for $60 per person to raise money for arts, music and after-school programs for the school.

The 1423 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. school is named for an influential Chicago socialite who founded the Lake View Woman’s Club, which played an important role here in the city. The organization, founded in 1893, sought to help the Edgewater community, according to the Peirce School’s website.

The school has done that in many ways ever since the building’s dedication in November 1915. It was the neighborhood’s third public grade school, and it was constructed in response to “the burgeoning number of housing units being built in the area,” the Edgewater Historical Society’s website said.

Zaimi estimated that somewhere between 6,000 and 7,000 students have graduated from the school since it first opened its doors.

Edgewater has long experienced an influx of a variety of ethnic and other minorities, and this was reflected in the make-up of Peirce’s students. Enrollment fell and grew over the years, and its curriculum has changed due to changing times and Chicago Public Schools priorities, the Edgewater Historical Society said on its website. Meanwhile, the school had the support of a strong parent teacher association.

Yet some more unique historical anecdotes stand out, too: Philip O. Krumm, president of the U.S. Olympic Committee from 1973 to 1977, got his start in speed skating on the frozen Peirce playground every winter, that same website said.

“The amateurs who skated there with him eventually formed six or seven skating clubs which have since produced almost all the American Olympic speed skaters,” the Edgewater Historical Society said in a 1990 post regarding the school’s 75th anniversary. “Krumm helped form and was the first president of the U.S. International Speedskating Association.”

Currently, 1,040 students attend the school, which serves students in grades pre-kindergarten through 8th. Zaimi said she expects somewhere between 700 and 1,000 people to attend the open house and about 150 people to attend the evening gala. Many of those people will be alumni and former teachers and administrators, she said.

At the open house, attendees will see an exhibit showcasing the faces of the school and how it has changed over time, she added. This information was gathered by the centennial committee.

Fundraising during the centennial gala will help purchase Google Chromebooks, garden supplies, additional books for the school’s library, ceramic wheels and more. It will also help support the school’s debate team, after-school programs such as Girls on the Run, and seeks to bring in arts programs for student assemblies, Zaimi said.

“This is a big time for Peirce as we work towards fully implementing the International Baccalaureate program of study,” she said, adding that the IB program in many ways mirrors the work of the school’s namesake.

“As an IB school, we work to develop globally minded citizens who model the IB learner profile (Inquirers, Knowledgeable, Thinkers, Communicators, Principled, Open-Minded, Caring, Risk-Takers, Balanced and Reflective),” Zaimi said. “All of these profiles describe Helen and her work with the Lake View Woman’s Club. Another component of IB is encouraging our students to take action on issues they see as relevant. This is what Helen was known for in her service to Chicago’s youth — taking action, (and) ensuring that we had academic- and arts-based programs for our young people.”

For more information on Saturday’s centennial program, visit www.friendsofpeirce.org/centennial or contact Linda England at 774-206-1069 or ise1069@aol.com.

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