The North Fork School of Integrated Studies (NFSIS) is drawing families to the North Fork Valley with Waldorf-inspired education methods, which emphasize the arts and limit technology.
The school opened within Paonia Elementary as "a school within a school" in 2015 with 24 children in grades K-4. This year, the school added a fifth grade class and grew by 12 students. At least four of the incoming families moved to the valley specifically for the opportunity to attend a publicly funded school with Waldorf methods.
"This school was definitely a factor in our decision to move to Paonia," says Roslyn Bauer, a parent of twin kindergarteners at NFSIS. "We really wanted a Waldorf education for our children, but the tuition at the school in Denver was quite high." For the 2017-2018 school year, full-time tuition at the Denver Waldorf School is $13,500 per year. Full-time tuition at the Waldorf School of the Roaring Fork, in Carbondale, is $13,900 per year.
Samuela Akert, whose son is in the fourth grade, is thankful for the Waldorf-public school blend. "We were part of a Waldorf homeschooling program when we lived in Alaska, but my son really needed a more social environment, so we enrolled him in public school. This school in Paonia is a perfect balance for us." NFSIS shares a building and some faculty with Paonia Elementary School (PES). For example, music and art instructors teach classes from both schools; and the children from both schools eat lunch and have recess together.
Families are drawn to NFSIS by the holistic approach of the Waldorf curriculum as well as the practical skills education. The lessons are developmentally sensitive, age-appropriate, and experiential. Lessons in history, science, reading, and math are interwoven with physical movement, art, and music. For example, multiplication tables are learned through physical games, and ecology is taught in the field. In this way, children engage multiple senses during the learning process and develop a deeper understanding of the subjects they study.
In addition to meeting standards established by the state of Colorado, the NFSIS curriculum includes Spanish, games/P.E., and handwork (e.g. knitting, crochet, sewing). The students learn to play the recorder beginning in first grade, and orchestra is compulsory beginning in third grade. Finally, community members teach rotating short courses in gardening, cooking, outdoor survival, and other practical skills.
The school expects another boost in enrollment for the 2017-2018 school year; they will add a sixth-grade class and are investigating a tuition-based preschool. Registration begins April 20 and can be completed online at http://nfsis.deltaschools.com, or in person at the PES / NFSIS main office.
NFSIS will host an open house on from 9:30-11:30 a.m. Friday, April 21. Interested families can tour the school, meet the teachers, and learn more about the integrated curriculum. For more information call 970-527-3639 and ask for Sam Cox, the principal of both PES and NFSIS.
Several people from the North Fork were present to provide input.