In the fall of 1987, three mothers searched for a school that would meet their criteria as a stimulating, engaging and heartfelt environment, where children could learn by doing. Not finding exactly what they were looking for in Boulder, Hope Morrissett, Bev Cole and Joan Lieberman founded Friends School. Their children had been in a playgroup together and they believed they could create a school that addressed the needs of children’s mind, body and spirit.
These three founding mothers decided to let their children name their school and Friends School was born. The children chose the name because the school was a place where they made friends and where they enjoyed being together every day. Although the name is the same, our school has no affiliation with Quaker Friends schools.
Our first school was in a house at 751 Marine Street just a few blocks west of the Boulder Public Library. It was there in 170 square feet that the first eight children went to school. The founders hired a teacher and the magic began. Children created and explored with joy and curiosity. Our harvest celebration was born there, along with our Silver and Gold graduation ceremony, and many of the other traditions that Friends still celebrates.
As the school grew, there was need for more space. The founding parents, with the support of Hope’s husband, Larry Gold, decided to purchase the current elementary school building at 5465 Pennsylvania Ave. At that time it was a rectangular cinderblock building. We moved into that building in 1990. It housed two classrooms, a small office, and a kitchen. The parents and the founders ran the school. They did the hiring, the repairs, the upkeep of the grounds, and managed all aspects of the school organization.
Within a year or two of purchasing the Pennsylvania Avenue site, and managing a split campus between Marine Street and the school’s current location, the founders purchased the house to the west, where the preschool and administrative offices are now located.
It was at this time that the current school governance structure was born and a Board of Trustees was formed. Our Board is responsible for setting strategy and policy and ensuring that the school achieves its objectives. The Board is also responsible for the sound fiscal management of the school and supports and evaluates the Head of School.
In the fall of 1995, Polly Donald was hired as the Head of School. At that time the library was in a room barely bigger than a closet. There were four elementary classes, Kindergarten through 5th grade, with two multi-age classes in the elementary building and two in the preschool building. The preschool occupied only one room. The school had a specialist PE teacher and literacy teacher, and we hired our first music teacher. There were approximately 80 students.
During the 1996-1997 school year, the school built the first phase of the existing elementary building, expanding it to much of what we see today, including the Great Room (gym). At that time we opened the second preschool classroom and the library moved upstairs in the preschool.
One year after moving into the new building, we hired our first (and only) Director of Admissions, among other staff. Over time our administrative staff has slowly grown to include a Director of Finance and Operations, a Director of Development, a Director of Communications, and a Program Coordinator.
By 1999-2000, we had once again outgrown our elementary facility and needed to expand again. At that time we added the new Elizabeth Morrissett Library, the northwest classroom and a new teacher workroom. That addition opened in the fall of 2001, resulting in six elementary classes in grades K-5, as well as a music room, gymnasium, computer lab, library, and an expanded kitchen.
Beginning in the late nineties, we explored gaining accreditation through the Association of Colorado Independent Schools (ACIS). In the year 2000, we entered their seven-year accreditation cycle. In 2003 we were the first private school in Boulder County to gain accreditation. In our 25th year we have completed two accreditation cycles with ACIS.
Since 2001, we have remodeled our administrative offices and the preschool classrooms. We have enhanced both the preschool and elementary playgrounds, with the addition of new climbing structures and equipment. We have hired learning resource specialists in both literacy and math, an art teacher, a librarian, and we continue to increase other opportunities for learning in our school community.
In 2004, the school took the unusual and exciting step of launching its highly regarded Teacher Preparation Program. As an accredited licensing agency of the State of Colorado, and in partnership with the University of Colorado, Denver, Friends School serves as a training center for new teachers. Teachers in training spend a full year with us to attain a teaching license in elementary or early childhood education. The vast majority of our Teacher Candidates also opt to pursue a Master’s Degree. With approximately 30-35 Teacher Candidates in our own classrooms, as well as in the classrooms of our public and independent partner schools, we are proud to train and graduate so many new teachers every year.
In early 2010, after seventeen successful years running the school, Polly Donald announced her retirement. The school conducted an extensive national search and appointed Steve de Beer as Head of School in October 2010. Steve officially took the reins during the summer of 2011. That fall, we installed a huge solar array on the roof of the elementary building which generates over 90% of electricity for our elementary program. Many changes and enhancements took place at Friends School during Steve’s tenure, including the addition of our Middle School Program.
In the fall of 2016, Friends opened our middle school on our newly renovated second campus at 3800 Kalmia Avenue in North Boulder. We are thrilled to bring a Friends education to young adolescents and offer another option for Boulder area families.
In 2017, after years of board-led discussions, Friends School launched our new brand to reflect our expanded programs and the immense growth that our school has experienced in recent years. While our name hasn’t changed, our offerings have grown over the years. Forever mission driven, our growth is boundless.
In June of 2018, after seven years at Friends, Steve de Beer departed Friends School to lead another school in Seattle. Friends hired Honor Taft to head our school and we are looking forward to many years under her thoughtful and experienced leadership.
Friends has had many wonderful teachers, students, and parents come and go over since 1987. Through it all we have managed to hold on to what is at the core of our school – educating and caring for the whole child: head, hand and heart. Challenging minds, nurturing spirits…guides our work with children, every day.
Today we have approximately 200 students on both campuses, with over 40 full and part-time faculty and staff. Our two campuses offer fine facilities and acres of natural surroundings in which our students thrive. We are a well-respected and fully accredited preschool and elementary school, with a middle school that offers a unique and innovative program. We are a supportive, dynamic community where our students acquire a strong academic foundation while developing creative expression, social responsibility, and respect for diversity and the individual.