Abington Friends School began life in March, 1697, when John Barnes, a wealthy tailor who belonged to the Abington Monthly Meeting, donated 120 acres of his estate “for and towards erecting a meetinghouse for Friends and toward the maintenance of a school under the direction of Friends.”
The School has been continuously operated on the same plot of land since its founding in that year, making it the oldest school in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania with such a claim.
Abington Friends School is under the care of Abington Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. The Meeting owns the grounds and the buildings and oversees the School through one of its standing committees, the School committee.
In its earliest days the School was located in one large room in the Meeting House, with the principles of the Religious Society of Friends dominating virtually every aspect of school life. In the 1780s the school moved to a structure of its own, the present day caretaker’s house adjacent to the Meeting House on Greenwood Avenue. Boys occupied the first floor room, while girls were instructed in the upstairs room. Boys were responsible for supplying firewood for the stoves in each room and the girls collected drinking water from the small brook behind the Meeting House.
Coeducation was not the only way in which the School observed the Quaker testimony of equality. By the mid 18th century, Abington Friends School admitted African American students too. Throughout the 18th century, AFS provided an education for the primary grades only, with enrollment fluctuating between 20 and 40 students, most of whom were Quaker.
The foundations for the modern school we know today were laid in the 1880s, when the school was transformed from an ungraded primary day school with around 90 students and two teachers to a boarding school that served kindergarten through twelfth grade.
The new school was opened in 1887 on the triangular property bordered by present-day Greenwood Avenue, Jenkintown Road and Meetinghouse Road. The curriculum of the school reflected a healthy balance of religious instruction and rigorous academics, with weekly Meeting for Worship continuing to play a significant role in school life.
By 1931, the school had become an all-girls college preparatory school, which offered a more progressive education than many of the all-girls schools by including exchange programs with European schools, mandatory community service and greater diversity in student enrollment.
AFS entered the 1960s with a strong commitment to a progressive education firmly rooted in Quaker values. Consistent with those values was the School Committee’s decision to return to coeducation in 1966. By 1975 all grades, kindergarten through twelfth, contained both boys and girls. Under the leadership of headmaster Adelbert Mason, the school’s facilities expanded, with new buildings for the Lower, Middle and Upper Schools. Growth continued in the late ‘80s with a new science and arts wing in the Lower School.
Recent capital improvements have included a new suite of classrooms in the Upper School and the Faulkner Library and Learning Center, a beautiful light and airy space that has become the center and focal point of our campus.
Now with more than 700 students from Early Childhood to Twelfth Grade and an expansive 508-acre campus of buildings, playing fields, tennis courts and playgrounds, Abington Friends School has grown in extraordinary ways over the last several decades. Amid the changes we have remained true to the goal of providing a powerful academic program within a community that values the ethical and spiritual tenets of Quakerism.