Friday, September 27, 2013

Sage School enrollment continues to grow

Self-awareness emphasized at private school in Hailey

Express Staff Writer

Express graphic by Kristen Kaiser

    From humble beginnings four years ago, the private Sage School in Hailey, now in its fifth year, continues to attract more students, with enrollment now five times larger than in the beginning.
    There were 14 students when the school opened its doors in 2009 to grades 8-12. For this school year, enrollment has climbed to 79, in grades 6-12.
    The Sage School claims on its website that some students in the public school system feel alienated, as if teachers and adults don’t care about them. Furthermore, it says, some students have a perception of not having a useful role in society.
    The Sage School focuses on changing that trend, trying to help its students realize their own potential, understand who they are and where they fit into the community.
    “Our community service is in our schedule every week,” said Head of School Harry Weekes. “Each week, every student does two hours of community service. You’ll see in our mission statement that sense of worth is certainly part of it, but it’s more a matter of self-awareness.
    “I think that happens in all schools, but that’s our focus and mission and we also do it intentionally.”
    The schools mission statement states that the purpose of the school is to “create an intensive, experiential learning environment for adolescents that is committed to educational excellence and the development of self-awareness through community action and humanitarian and ecological responsibility.”
    The school’s vision is to “help create sustainable and thriving human and ecological communities.”
    The growth in enrollment demonstrates that parents and students are increasingly interested in what The Sage School has to offer.
    “More people have seen it working, getting a sense of what it’s doing and seeing that it is working,” Weekes said. “Now, we’re going into our fifth year, so it’s not as frightening to send your kid to a new school. People see that we are offering a legitimate school and a distinctive school.”
    A big part of helping students achieve self-awareness is experiential learning through field trips. Weekes said each student participates in five weeks of field trips per year. The school starts with two weeks of field trips in the fall, another week mid-winter during President’s Day week and a final two weeks during the last two weeks of the school year.
    “The goal of this program is to get students into the field, to build community within each group of our students and within the whole school, to create specific and diverse experiences around our academic themes, to work with and take advantage of local, area and regional resources and for students to become hands-on familiar with our place and region within a 300-mile radius of the school,” Weekes wrote in an email to the Idaho Mountain Express. “We consider this space our extended campus and do everything we can to have our students familiar with this space. Over the course of seven years at school, students will spend the equivalent of one full year in the field.”
    Recent field trips by sixth- and seventh-graders included a College of Southern Idaho “rope course,” rock climbing at the City of Rocks and camping in Copper Basin.
    Eighth- and ninth-graders went river rafting in the Payette River, went to Lowman to study fire ecology and worked on salmon restoration in Redfish Lake with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
    Tenth- through twelfth-grade students went bowling, attended a native edible and medicinal plants workshop, visited the University of Idaho Agricultural Research Station in Parma and took an agricultural tour of regional dairies and farms.

School founding
    The Sage School was founded in 2009 by Weekes, former Blaine County School District educator Barge Levy and Chris McAvoy, who is the assistant head of school. Levy is no longer with the school, having semi-retired. Both Weekes and McAvoy, who also teach, are former teachers at the independent Community School in Sun Valley.
    Weekes said another person instrumental in founding The Sage School was Karen Oswald, an original board member.
    “She was a lot of the good momentum and energy and got us moving in the right direction,” Weekes said.
    From an original staff of three, the school has grown to 13 full-time employees.
Terry Smith:

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