George W. Lutz Family Center – Highland Park

The JCYS George W. Lutz Family Center in Highland Park welcomes children and families to a joyful, play-based learning environment where every child receives tailored instruction and individual care. We use an emergent curriculum, meaning that lesson plans are based on children’s interests and curiosity – no two classrooms are the same! Each child has the opportunity to explore his or her unique talents and develop an independent, exploratory approach to learning that lasts for life. We serve children by supporting the whole family – teachers and staff at JCYS Highland Park are committed to engaging parents in the life and community of the center.

Ready to learn more? Contact us for open house dates or to schedule a personalized tour!

Program highlight: Amazing Athletes

In addition to our regular team and individual sports programming, 3 and 4 year old students also have the option to sign up for Amazing Athletes, a preschool sports class that introduces the fundamentals of a variety of sports in a non-competitive, developmentally appropriate environment.

Building social and academic skills through individualized, discovery-based learning

Physical Development

The gym and enormous age-specific playgrounds at JCYS Highland Park provide daily opportunities for each child to develop strength, stamina, and gross motor skills. There’s even a climbing wall where children can challenge themselves in a safe and supportive environment. Dancing and yoga build physical fitness and motor skills as students learn to move rhythmically and control different parts of their bodies.


Our physical curriculum also weaves food and nutrition education into the day. Our catered meals and snacks are nutritionally balanced and include multiple food groups to encourage children to try new foods. JCYS Highland Park is also known for taking a forward-thinking approach to food allergies and allergy safety. We regularly consult with a local pediatric allergist and constantly make proactive updates to policies and procedures to keep every student safe.

Social and Emotional Skills

Our social and emotional curriculum is the cornerstone of early childhood programming at JCYS Highland Park. We use an evidence-based approach developed at Vanderbilt University to encourage independence, curiosity, and self-confidence as children learn how to learn. Play-based classrooms foster children’s self-help skills as they begin to solve problems and make decisions for themselves. As children learn to play cooperatively, engage with their peers, and resolve conflicts respectfully, our staff are there to help and guide them.

Academic Foundations

JCYS teachers immerse children in a rich learning environment that lays the foundations for academic success. Reading and pre-literacy skills are integrated into every day, and we use the evidence-based Handwriting Without Tears program to teach handwriting in pre-K classes. Parents can even sign their children up for Spanish enrichment through Olé Spanish Services.


Each child’s day also features science, technology, and math (STEM) activities. Children practice science skills every day—in a play-based curriculum, everything is an experiment! We bring nature into the classroom to encourage interest in biology and the natural world. Teachers prompt children to build familiarity with numbers and math throughout the day by counting the people and objects around them (“How many children on the rug are wearing red?”).

Expert care for every child

Thanks to a low child-to-teacher ratio, children at JCYS Highland Park form personal relationships with teachers and caregivers. Ferdinand, the Child and Family Development Specialist at JCYS Highland Park, works one-on-one with children, parents, and teachers to ensure every child receives the appropriate support and care. Many teachers have master’s degrees and all have taken professional coursework relevant to child development. To make sure every child stays safe at JCYS, staff members are certified in CPR and First Aid, and monthly professional development meetings ensure that all staff members are fully up to date on the latest in early childhood education and care.

Families and communities

At JCYS Highland Park, family engagement is woven into the school year. We treat every family like our own and provide regular opportunities for parents to connect with each other and develop a community. Each year features multiple all-school events, including an ice-cream social to kick off the year, a Sukkah Party (complete with a petting zoo and glitter tattoo artist), and Hanukkah Party. Family events are scheduled in the evenings and on weekends, so parents don’t have to choose between work and school.

Engagement with the community extends beyond the family, too. JCYS Highland Park teaches children to be kind citizens of the world and consider the impact of their actions on their friends, neighbors, and communities. This year, our pre-K children participated in multiple community activities throughout the year, including a sock drive, pajama and book drive, community decorations, and hiding “kindness rocks” in local playgrounds.

Program highlight: Music education

Music specialist Susan Salidor visits classrooms at JCYS Highland Park to introduce children to the joy of music and movement. Susan has recorded 9 studio albums and has won prizes for her work including the Parents’ Choice Silver Award (twice), the Parents’ Choice Gold Award (twice), the National Parenting Product Award (twice), and the iParenting Media Award. She is also well-known as an early childhood music educator and regularly holds workshops throughout the Chicago area.


Jewish Culture and Family Engagement

JCYS programs are open to families of every faith. Children at JCYS Highland Park learn about Jewish traditions and culture through inclusive celebrations that focus on the joyfulness, traditions, and values of Jewish holidays. All children celebrate Shabbat (the Jewish sabbath) each week in their classrooms and learn about Jewish holidays throughout the year. Commitment to Jewish culture and values overlaps with our commitment to including families and communities in the life of JCYS Highland Park. We plan Grandparent Shabbats in our classrooms and schedule family events around major Jewish holidays. All families are welcome no matter how much they know about Jewish holiday celebrations – parents regularly receive “cheat sheets” to introduce the major Jewish holidays and help families connect to what their children learn during the day.

Ready to learn more? Contact us for open house dates or to schedule a personalized tour!

Learn more about hosting your next event at GWL

When you discover baby bunnies on the playground ❤️❤️❤️ ... See MoreSee Less

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We are very proud of our JECELI (Jewish Early Childhood Education Leadership Institute) fellows, Meghan, Marissa, Liz, and Ray. Today marks their graduation after 18 months of learning alongside their JECELI cohort and mentors, self exploration, and passionately working to develop unique projects that will have a lasting impact on our Highland Park and JCYS Wicker Park centers. Mazel tov!!

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From noon-9 pm Menchie's in Deerfield is kicking back 20% of proceeds for anyone who presents our fundraiser flyer (click the tinyurl below). Treat yourself and support our wonderful school!
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