The Fratto Family, Friends’ Central School
A happy child is happier and more confident, thanks to the Wynnewood school.
When Jill and Joe Fratto moved from one home to another, the distance was small, but their daughter, Liv, had to change elementary schools.
Liv is an incandescent child — her father calls her impact on the people around her “the halo effect.” She had thrived at her old school, and the Frattos were bracing for a tough transition. They started considering independent schools in the area as a possible alternative to public school, and nearly settled on a girls’ school for Liv.
But all three of them were drawn in by the warm, welcoming environment at Friends’ Central School, a coed, Quaker school for students from nursery school to 12th grade on two campuses in Wynnewood.
Liv, who’s now 9, started in the third grade in the fall of 2016. From her first day, it’s been the perfect fit.
“When I picked her up, a little girl came up to me and said, ‘I love Olivia,’ and I almost cried,” Jill said. “Olivia was always happy, but she seemed even happier than before, and more confident. I didn’t even think that was possible.”
Jill said the atmosphere at Friends’ Central is calm, and that’s really worked for Liv.
“The whole approach is so gentle, and there’s a meditation aspect of it because it’s a Quaker school,” Joe said.
While the Frattos aren’t Quaker, Jill said the values really resonate with the family.
“They really teach tolerance,” she said. “It’s a very diverse community, and that was important to us.”
Both parents raved about the quality of the teachers at the school, too. Friends’ Central’s small class sizes mean teachers can know their students incredibly well, and adapt to both a child’s educational needs and his or her social and emotional needs.
Jill is a class parent, and recalled one example of watching Liv’s teacher with the class.
“She spoke to them with such love and respect — it was like they were all members of a team,” she said. “We have had an incredible experience, but I know it’s not unique to us. Every classroom is like that.”
The Frattos also love the top-rate facilities at the school. The Lower School’s bucolic campus on Old Gulph Road has the feel of a rural farm, but inside the period buildings are cutting-edge learning tools.
Students can learn robotics, coding, and 3D printing in the school’s Light Lab, a groundbreaking facility dedicated to the creativity of students in Nursery through fifth grade. Students can also tend to the aeroponic plants in the Light Lab’s innovative solarium in the Natural Sciences studio. The plants are pollinated by kindergartners with cotton swabs, and the vegetables and herbs grown year-round in the solarium, including kale, lettuce, squash, cucumbers, and basil, are harvested to supplement the school’s Lettuce Feed You food program. And that’s just the beginning!
Asked whether she would recommend Friends’ Central to another child her age, Liv replied “YES!” without hesitation. She said she enjoys being able to learn through doing, rather than on paper, and she loves the friends she’s made at the school.
“I was really nervous on my first day,” she said, beaming. “But then everything just fell out smooth!”
It’s that enthusiasm — carried through every day — that makes Liv’s parents appreciate how special their experience at Friends’ Central is.
“When I picked her up that first day, she said to me, ‘This is the best day of my whole life — so far,”’ Jill said. “That’s how you know it was a good decision.”
Want to know more about Friends’ Central? Visit us online or join us for our upcoming admissions events:
December 2: Lower School Open House — a special event for families of students in grades 3 to 5. Register now!
December 6: Admission parent information sessions — Lower School, 9 am; Middle and Upper School, 8:30 am. Register now!
Walk-in Wednesday tours also available each week.
Photographs by Casey Kallen.