Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Charter school nears enrollment goal

Administrator confident of 165 students by start of school year

Express Staff Writer

Syringa Mountain School teacher and board member Travis Scott talks to new students at an open house last Saturday at the school’s location in southern Hailey. Set to open this coming fall, Syringa will be Blaine County’s first state-funded charter school.
Courtesy photo

    With the start of the 2014-2015 school year still six months away, Syringa Mountain School, Blaine County’s new state-funded charter school, is approaching its goal of 165 students.
    As of Friday, official enrollment for the new school, set to open this coming fall, was 137 students. An enrollment period ended on Feb. 3. However, school Administrator Mary Gervase said applications are still being accepted.
    She said students who applied after the enrollment period are being placed on a waiting list. Whether or not those on the waiting list will be accepted into the school depends upon what grade level they are seeking and upon a proposal to the state of Idaho that would allow children 4 years of age to attend a mixed-age kindergarten at the new school.
    Gervase said there are currently nine students on the waiting list and about 15 4-year-olds waiting to see if they can attend kindergarten.
    The new school in its first year will be for grades K-5. The school plans to add a grade each of the next three years so that by the start of the 2017-2018 school year it will have grades K-8.
    As of Friday, there were 33 kindergarteners enrolled, 25 first-graders, 22 second-graders, 27 third-graders, 13 fourth-graders and 17 fifth-graders.
    Gervase is confident that the school will meet its enrollment goal.
    “I wouldn’t say that we’re short of our goal, because we can enroll students up to the start of school,” Gervase said. “We’re still receiving applications. It’s just fascinating and our waiting list continues to grow. It just depends on whether we have room in the class they’re requesting.”
    Syringa Mountain School will use the Waldorf education methodology, such as is currently used at the private Mountain School near Bellevue. However, the Mountain School is set to close this spring and the new charter school will allow continuation of the methodology in Blaine County.

I wouldn’t say that we’re short of our goal, because we can enroll students up to the start of school.”
Mary Gervase
School administrator

    The Waldorf methodology is described on the Syringa Mountain School website as an “academically rigorous liberal arts curriculum presented in a developmentally and arts-integrated context. The method emphasizes educating the whole child—head, heart and hands—through sustainable living, gardening, farming, experiential learning and minimal use of technology in the early grades.”
    Syringa Mountain School was approved as a state charter school in August of 2013 by the Idaho State Charter School Commission. As a charter school, Syringa will receive state funding on a per-student basis. However, charter schools also rely on private donations since the schools are not allowed to levy for tax dollars.
    Syringa Mountain School announced earlier this month that it has settled on a location for at least the next four years.
    The school has leased a two-story, 17,000-square-foot building on a .95-acre parcel at 4021 Glenbrook Drive in south Hailey.
    Gervase said the building was originally constructed as a “hobby garage” for working on and storing antique automobiles. As such, the bottom level is an open expanse, not needing demolition of walls for the school to modify it for its needs.
    “Actually, that building is so perfect because there are no walls,” Gervase said. “All we have to do is build the walls. It’s nice to go into a building where you don’t have to start tearing down walls.”
    For its first year, Gervase said the school plans to remodel the first floor and portions of the second floor. Additional remodeling of the second floor will take place as the school population increases.
    Gervase said Syringa has signed a four-year lease for the building with an option to buy. She said the initial rent rate is $7,000 per month.
Terry Smith:

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