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Tomorrow River Community Charter School to be located at Central WISCONSIN Environmental Station

charter-school-environment-focusAMHERST JUNCTION — Scott Johnson said when he heard about the Tomorrow River Community Charter School, he felt having it located at the Central Wisconsin Environmental Station was a natural fit.

Johnson, the director of the 200-acre teaching and learning center, approached representatives about the possibility, and the school will be open there this fall. He said the station’s affiliation with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point College of Natural Resources will offer the school a unique atmosphere to offer to its students.

“They can work with our staff and our university students. They can have the opportunity to work in our organic garden or with our chickens,” Johnson said. “Everything we have worked hard to do over the past eight years I have been here has provided a great opportunity for this school to be successful here. It’s feels right to have them at this location.”

Chamomile Nusz, planning grant coordinator for the charter school, said members of the school’s governance board are working on staffing and curriculum while also starting to accept applications. She added the school and the Tomorrow River School District are finalizing their charter agreement, and are working on agreements about the program with CWES, the district and the College of Natural Resources.

“We have a great opportunity to be (at CWES). It’s an exciting time for us, but there’s certainly a lot we have to accomplish before this fall,” said Nusz, who along with Shannon Korger, Rebecca Towne and Tina Giombetti, proposed the charter school.

Johnson said CWES has started working more with local students through a three-year grant from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation. The funds helped establish an eight-month after school program for children from Rosholt, Iola, Amherst and four sites of the Boys & Girls Club of Portage County. The grant also will help CWES build three more cabins which could be used as classrooms should the charter school grow.

Johnson said while College of Natural Resources students would work with the school, he also sees others from such disciplines as education, waste management, arts, dance and music at UWSP joining them. He and the school also are working with organizations such as the Midwest Renewable Energy Association and Central Rivers Farmshed to develop programs for students.

“This is a great community that is very supportive of a school like this,” Johnson said. “The more groups and resources we can take advantage of, the more we can help this school be successful going forward.”

Nusz said the school will have four classrooms to start, renovating space in current lodges at CWES. She added nine students have signed up to attend this fall, but there are letters of interest for about 65 others. She said that school could go up to about 80 students, and the makeup of the classrooms would be determined by the age ranges of the students.

The school will hire a lead teacher and will add three more, all of whom will be trained in the Waldorf Education philosophy. Developed by Rudolf Steiner in 1919, the method focuses on three phases child development: from birth to 6 or 7 years old, from 7 to 14 years old, and from 14 to 18 years old. Students are encouraged to learn at a natural pace, incorporating aspects of music, art and the environment along with core subjects such as math and reading.

The Tomorrow River School Board approved the charter school in March. While it will be affiliated with the Tomorrow River School District and have to follow public school guidelines from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, the school will have autonomy over aspects such as curriculum. Last August, the school received a $150,000 Charter School Planning Grant, and will apply for an Implementation Grant from the DPI for $150,000 that will begin this August.

According to the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America, there are more than 900 Waldorf schools and more than 250 in some level of development in North America.

Source: Stevens Point Journal – by Nathan Vine

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This entry was posted on February 28, 2013 by in Charter Schools, Wisconsin and tagged , , , .

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