Waldorf charter finds home in west Fairfax

David Briggs
Greg Browman and his daughter Lorelei, a former student at the Lagunitas School District’s Waldorf program, which was terminated this spring, explored the new campus of a Waldorf charter that will start next month. Wise Academy, housed in county open space just west of Fairfax, has already attracted more than 50 families.

Marin parents interested in a Waldorf education now have a second public option with the opening this September of Wise Academy, a charter school launched by former families of the Lagunitas School District’s Waldorf-inspired program. On Monday the elementary school announced it secured a home at the Henry Bothin Youth Center, a girl scouts camp in White’s Hill Open Space Preserve in west Fairfax, and named Ellie Jenkins, a seasoned administrator who has worked with numerous Bay Area Waldorf programs, its director. Waldorf education originated in early-twentieth-century Europe with philosopher Rudolph Steiner and, as Wise Academy puts it, seeks to educate the whole child—head, heart and hands. Matt Andrews, one of the program’s organizers, said that since Wise is a public program, it will be subject to standardized testing. “There are standards, there are metrics. So this will be a hybrid,” he said. He added that the county’s only other public Waldorf program, in Novato, has a waiting list several hundred names long. The program will include one day a week of outdoor education at the campus, which connects to trails in the preserve; in an outdoor rotunda with an organic garden and amphitheater; or on adventures undertaken farther afield. More than 50 families have already signed up, Mr. Andrews said; children will be split into separate kindergarten and first grade classes and combined second-third and fourth-fifth grade classes. Sponsored by the Sonoma branch of the Academy of Arts and Sciences, the charter was conceived in response to the Lagunitas School board’s abrupt termination this spring of one of the district’s three specialized programs; board members cited persistent instability, frequent teacher turnover and the disproportionate transfer of students out of the Waldorf program and into the school’s sister programs as factors in its decision. For more information about the school, which is holding an open house for enrolled parents this Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m., call (415) 488.5012 or visit wise-academy.org.