A new charter school will open in Keene next fall after it was recently authorized by the N.H. State Board of Education.
Gathering Waters Chartered Public School will initially offer education for students in grades 1 through 9 and then add grades 10, 11 and 12 in each successive year, according to a Dec. 15 news release from a nonprofit called The Friends of Gathering Waters.
The public charter school was approved by the Board of Education on Dec. 10, Gabrielle Schuerman said Wednesday morning. Schuerman, a Keene resident whose daughter, 11, attends the Monadnock Waldorf School on South Lincoln Street, chairs The Friends of Gathering Waters’ board of directors.
She said Gathering Waters’ curriculum and teaching methods will draw on the principles of Public Waldorf Education. Those principles include a particular focus on child development and fostering a love of lifelong learning, she said.
“The idea is to really to develop these independent, creative thinkers but also [students] who can work together with other people,” she said.
Curricula will focus particularly on social justice and environmental sustainability “to prepare young people for all of the challenges they’re going to face,” Schuerman said.
As a public charter, Gathering Waters will receive $7,188 per student from the state each year, with the remainder of its capital coming from its own fundraising efforts.
Schuerman said the school plans to enroll 15 students per grade when it opens in September 2021 and eventually increase that figure to as many as 25 students. Explaining that many Friends of Gathering Waters members are concerned about the financial inaccessibility of private Waldorf-model schools, she said the new school hopes to make economically and educational disadvantaged families aware of its offerings.
“We are making a special effort to reach out to underserved communities,” she said. “We really have a strong value of social justice.”
Students will likely come from Cheshire, Sullivan and Hillsborough counties, according to Schuerman, but out-of-state children can also pay tuition to attend.
The Friends of Gathering Waters is considering multiple locations in Keene for the school and hopes to finalize a site within two months, she said.
Gathering Waters would become the fourth charter school in the region, according to the state Department of Education. Surry Village Charter School, which serves students in kindergarten through grade 8, opened in September 2006. MC2, a charter high school, opened a Keene campus in August 2015. And LEAF Charter School in Alstead, serving students in grades 9 through 12, opened in August 2017.