This article has been changed to correct the number of applications the XQ Institute received in its Super School Project challenge.

ALSTEAD — A new Alstead charter school recently heard from the N.H. Department of Education that it’s secured crucial grant money that will allow it to open in fall 2017. And, through a contest called the Super School Project challenge, it’s in the running to win a substantial sum more.

Over the next three years, the LEAF School will get $525,000 in federal start-up grant funds to use for expenses such as curriculum development, furniture, technology and equipment, according to Dakota Benedetto, a Fall Mountain Regional High School teacher who founded the charter school.

The grant funds cannot be used on building or operational costs.

“We’re psyched because our budget is sort of built around having that money in place,” Benedetto said.

LEAF stands for learning from local leaders; experiential education; arts integration and academic achievement; and freedom and flexibility.

The high school’s mission is to expand educational opportunities for students through a rigorous curriculum of science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM), as well as build partnerships with creative professionals, according to its website.

The school is needed in the area for hands-on learners who may not thrive in a traditional classroom setting, according to Benedetto. She said she was motivated to start this charter school because of her own experience with students who are bright, but don’t succeed in school.

As a charter school, the LEAF School will be public and tuition-free, so any student in the state can attend it.

It will be housed in the Mole Hill Theatre on Gilsum Mine Road.

The school is also in the running for $10 million through a contest by an educational organization that wants to create a new model for America’s schools.

The XQ Institute named the LEAF School a finalist in its Super School Project challenge out of nearly 700 applications.

Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, is the chairwoman of the organization’s board of directors.

The challenge asked for high school proposals that align with the institute’s vision to create “super schools.” The winners will be announced in August.

Benedetto said she didn’t expect the LEAF School to make it so far in the contest because of the number of applicants. Every time she logged in to work on the proposal, she said the website showed all of the different people trying to start their own schools.

“There are literally just thousands of different accounts,” she said. “It’s sort of intimidating.”

The LEAF School is the 27th charter school in the Granite State, joining two others in the Monadnock Region: Making Community Connections Monadnock (MC2) in Keene and Surry Village Charter School.

It was unanimously approved by the seven-member State Board of Education in January.

When the school opens, only freshmen will be admitted the first year and a grade will be added each year until 2020, when organizers expect it will be at full capacity.

There would be a maximum of 28 students per grade, for a total of 112 students.

The LEAF School will be part of N.H. School Administrative Unit 60, the Fall Mountain Regional School District, but run independently. The district covers Acworth, Alstead, Charlestown, Langdon and Walpole.

Running independently means the school won’t report to the Unit 60 school board and doesn’t receive any local property tax dollars, according to Benedetto.

At the end of this month and throughout May, Benedetto said there will be information sessions held throughout the region for interested students, parents and community members.

The next one is April 30 at the Acworth Silsby Library from 2 to 3 p.m.

More dates can be found on the school’s Facebook page at

Benedetto said she didn’t plan on doing information sessions this early on, but the school has received a lot of inquiries, particularly from local businesses, artists and other professionals who are interested in mentoring or offering internships, which is the foundation of the LEAF School.

“We had an overwhelmingly positive response to that,” she said.

Matt Nanci can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1439, or Follow him on Twitter @MNanciKS.