Renbrook: A School Founded By Parents
Renbrook School began with a conversation in the living room of Mr. and Mrs. John Lee of Farmington, Connecticut.
There, the Lees and seven like-minded families decided to establish a progressive, learn-by-doing school on the model established by educator John Dewey.
Founded in 1935, the Tunxis School—named in recognition of the Native American tribe that was local to the Connecticut River Valley—was housed in an aged Victorian home at 2431 Albany Avenue in West Hartford.
With three teachers and 17 students aged three to nine, the school grew under the guidance of Florence Greene, who would serve as the headmistress for 32 years.
Within months, an increase in enrollment forced the small school to change location, moving to a rambling old house at the corner of Farmington and Outlook Avenues. The new institution enrolled 39 students and was renamed Junior School.
Two years later, enrollment had reached 69 and Junior School purchased a building lot at 950 Trout Brook Road. There they built the first home of their own, comprising six classrooms. The move was made during spring vacation in 1938, after teachers had painted all their mismatched furniture the same shade of blue you can see on campus today.
1940's & 50's
By 1956, Junior School was bursting at the seams. In response, Headmistress Greene and trustees decided they needed to expand the campus. When the estate of Frederick B. Rentschler, co-founder of Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, announced it would lease its family home to a worthy not-for-profit institution, Junior School applied for the opportunity. Selected first among 18 applicants, the school was awarded the rental of the Albany Avenue home at $1.00 annually. In appreciation, the Junior School renamed itself ‘Renbrook,’ the original name of the Rentschler estate.
1960's & Beyond
In January of 1958, the school moved to its new location at 2865 Albany Avenue. Within 10 years, the enrollment grew to 470 and the program expanded to carry students through Grade 9. In 1996, when the Faye Belden Rentschler Foundation merged with Renbrook School, Inc., it inaugurated a new era for the school. Renbrook today enrolls almost 400 students from more than 35 cities and towns in Connecticut and Massachusetts, and celebrated its 80th anniversary in the academic year 2015-16.