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Our History

We are committed to honoring the legacy of our campus, restoring its architecture, preserving the natural environment, and rebuilding a thriving educational community

Fulfilling the desire to help orphaned boys who were roaming the stockyards of Chicago,  Morris Schwabacher and  V.P.  Randall  founded The Chicago Junior School in1913 with only a tent and the wilderness of northern Michigan. Growing to 50 students, CJS moved to an active farm near St. Joseph, MI.  Then, in 1923, CJS relocated the boarding school one last time to a 100 acre farm in Elgin, Illinois. The silo that stands tall in the center of campus reminds us of the original farm that once occupied this property.

Here, John Van Bergen designed and built the administration building as the new heart of the school in 1929. In 1955, girls were allowed enrollment into CJS and occupied their own dorm.  The campus continued to expand throughout the 1960s with the Katzenberger Pool and Gymnasium and continued modifications to dorm and classroom spaces.

In 2003, the CJS board adopted a new name to better reflect the values and location of the school: The Fox River Country Day School. In 2005, FRCDS built our current K–4 classroom building, the “Neil” Building. In 2011, FRCDS closed its doors due to financial difficulty — ending a nearly 100 year history. The campus remained abandoned until 2018 when the City of Elgin agreed to have the Elgin Math and Science Academy carry on the campus’s educational legacy.

On October 3, 2017, the Illinois State Charter School Commission voted to grant the appeal of EMSA’s Charter School Proposal. Once only a dream,  we now have the great privilege of being the only public charter school within the 90 square mile boundary of School District U-46 (the second largest district in Illinois).

Elgin History Museum

Elgin's history is carefully curated by the Elgin History Museum. Thanks to preservation and documentation efforts, much of history of our campus is recored in photographs. 

Interested in learning more about Elgin's history? Click here to explore!