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Foote in the 1970s

In the fall of 1971, for the first time, The Foote School welcomed a ninth-grade class. The curricular theme for the 15 students that year was “Wilderness and the City” and explored hunting and gathering societies, Old-Testament Israel, Athens, Florence and New Haven. For the first ninth-grade play, students chose Sophocles’ Antigone, a tale of sibling rivalry and adolescent authority—a bold choice for students entering young adulthood at the start of a turbulent decade.

“We were in school at such a volatile time in history,” members of the Class of 1976 wrote of their time at Foote. “Some of us grew long hair and went to anti-war protests; the jewelry of choice was Vietnam POW/MIA bracelets. Downtown New Haven saw race riots and Black Panther demonstrations; and Foote parents were among the civil rights leaders.” Students remember their fathers, Yale Law School professors, going for long walks to talk because they thought their houses were bugged. History teacher Jay Bovilsky tossed the social studies curriculum aside and had students watch the Watergate hearings instead.

In the upper grades, Headmaster Frank Perrine focused on local and global geography and assigned students to memorize the Gettysburg Address. Sixth graders now learned a second foreign language—Latin, Russian or Spanish—in addition to French. In the lower grades, the school experimented with various classroom age groupings before settling on the Mixed Age Group model in 1974, in which students from grades 1 and 2 were taught together by the same teacher for two years.

Adjacent land owned by the St. Francis Home for Children was acquired in 1973, though it was several years before the five-acre parcel was developed into a much-needed playing field. This decade produced the first hardcover yearbook in 1973, the first issue of Foote Prints in 1970 and the school’s first official alumni reunion in 1979.

Activity clubs for students now included the Library Aids Club, the Macramé Club (in which “some people make belts, some make chokers, some make wrist bands, and some goof around”) and the Cooking Club. A hot lunch was served family-style in the lunchroom until 1974. Faculty had a smoking lounge, and teachers played football with students on Saturday mornings. By these simple measures, Foote was, to paraphrase T.S. Eliot, a still point in the turning world.

Since 1916, The Foote School has provided child-centered education that nurtures creativity, excellence and joy in learning.

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