Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Private Mountain School set to close

New publicly funded charter school to arise in its stead

Express Staff Writer

Founding board members and supporters celebrate outside of the meeting room of the Idaho Public Charter School Commission on Aug. 15 after the commission approved establishment of Syringa Mountain School as a state-funded charter school. From left are Svea Grover, Randy Flood, Ben Rogers, Mary Gervase, Travis Scott, Phoebe Pilaro, Don Keller, Hallie Kelly Star and Katherine Woods.
Courtesy photo

    The private Mountain School near Bellevue is set to close in the spring of 2014.
    In its place, utilizing the same Waldorf teaching methodology, a new state-funded charter school, Syringa Mountain School, is set to open in the fall of 2014.
    The Syringa Mountain School was authorized by the Idaho Public Charter School Commission on Aug. 15. As such, the school will receive state funding on a per-student basis. However, because charter schools are not allowed to levy property taxes, the school will also rely on donations.
    The school reported in press release issued last week that it received a $500,000 anonymous donation soon after being approved by the commission.
    Mary Gervase, an educational consultant, director of the Mountain School, a former Blaine County School District assistant superintendent and the leader of the effort to authorize Syringa Mountain School, said the money will be used to purchase a school site, which mostly likely will be in the Hailey area.
    Syringa Mountain School has been in the planning stages for more than a year. It was unanimously approved by the commission at its first hearing, an unusual occurrence, with the school reporting in the press release that it has only happened once before in Idaho.
    Syringa Mountain School had some high-powered support, with Idaho First Lady Lori Otter, a former educator and administrator, advocating for authorization.
    “The Syringa Mountain School reflects a considered implementation of the Waldorf method of education, which is designed to integrate creativity and individual expression of research-based strategies to elevate student achievement,” Otter wrote in a letter of endorsement to the commission.
    There are about 1,000 Waldorf schools now existence in 91 countries worldwide. However, The Mountain School and Syringa Mountain School are the only ones that have been established in Idaho or the surrounding states of Utah, Wyoming, Montana and Washington.
    “Syringa Mountain School provides what all parents and students deserve: choice,” Laurie Wertich, a founding board member and former teacher, stated in the press release. “With this charter, Blaine County parents now have the opportunity to choose an innovative program designed to educate the whole child. This proven model is the future of education, and Blaine County is leading the charge in Idaho.”
    The Waldorf teaching methodology is described in the press release as offering an “academically rigorous, liberal arts curriculum presented in a developmentally and arts-integrated context. The method emphasizes educating the whole child—the head, heart and hands—through sustainable living, gardening, farming, experiential learning and minimal use of technology in the early grades. The Waldorf curriculum uses music, art, movement and storytelling as key components of the learning process.”
    The Mountain School typically has an enrollment of about 40 students in grades K-3. Syringa Mountain School has bigger plans and is hoping for an initial enrollment of 165 students, grades K-5. The school plans to expand one grade each year until the goal of a K-8 program is reached.
Terry Smith:

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