A proposed public charter school affiliated with a private, conservative college in Michigan hopes to bring “classical education” focused on liberal arts and sciences to the Monadnock Region beginning in the fall of 2022.
The proposed school, Monadnock Classical Academy, has submitted a charter application to the N.H. Department of Education, seeking approval from the State Board of Education to open a tuition-free elementary school, according to a news release from Monadnock Freedom to Learn Coalition Inc., the Hancock-based nonprofit leading the effort to establish the school. The school would plan to add middle- and high-school grades later.
The group has not yet determined where in the Monadnock Region the school would be. In the meantime, Monadnock Classical Academy has been accepted as an affiliate of the Barney Charter School Initiative of Hillsdale College, a non-denominational Christian college in Hillsdale, Mich.
Barry Tanner, chairman of the Monadnock Freedom to Learn Coalition, said Monday that Monadnock Classical Academy would offer a curriculum created by Hillsdale College rooted in mathematics, science, literature and history. As a public charter school, Monadnock Classical Academy’s curriculum would not include any religious instruction, Tanner said.
“The purpose of the classical curriculum is to develop well-rounded students ready to succeed in further academic or career pursuits,” Tanner, of Hancock, said in an email. “MCA will strive to teach children the skills necessary for critical thinking and reasoning using a rigorous, classical education.”
In the early grades of Monadnock Classical Academy, Tanner said students would focus on basic math and reading skills, including cursive, phonics and grammar, while older students would study subjects such as Latin, classical literature, logic, ethics, algebra, calculus, as well as world and American history. In addition to special emphasis on the liberal arts and sciences, a classical education offers “instruction in the principles of moral character and civic virtue,” Tanner said.
“We believe that this content rich curriculum will prove attractive to many families in the region, and the Academy will expand the range of educational choices available to parents for their children,” Tanner said. “We see MCA as complementary to existing schools in the area, but with a somewhat different focus.”
Tanner called MCA’s affiliation with the Barney Charter School Initiative “a huge step forward in our efforts to create the first classical public charter school in the Monadnock region.” In addition to an established curriculum, the program offers “significant logistical, technical and administrative support to successfully shepherd a school from application to Year One operationally,” Tanner said.
More than two dozen charter schools throughout the country are using this curriculum, according to the Barney Charter School Initiative website. The program aims to promote the founding of classical charter schools and assists groups nationwide seeking to establish these types of schools through creating and implementing academic programs and providing curriculum design, the website states.
Hillsdale College President Larry P. Arnn previously served as chairman of President Donald Trump’s 1776 Commission, according to a news release from the school. Matthew Spalding, who oversees the school’s Washington, D.C., campus, served as executive director of the commission, which published a Jan. 18 report promoting “patriotic education that teaches the truth about America.” Shortly after taking office Jan. 20, President Joe Biden disbanded the commission, and took the report, which critics said was racist, off the White House website, the Washington Post reported.
Charter schools are public, tuition-free schools that offer an alternative to traditional public schools. In New Hampshire, charter schools receive roughly $7,100 per student from the state each year, with additional funding typically coming from school-specific fundraising efforts.
Monadnock Classical Academy would plan to enroll about 200 students in kindergarten through 5th grade to begin and employ 15 to 20 staff members. The school would aim to add 6th through 12th grades in subsequent years, and hire additional staff as needed, Tanner said. The Monadnock Freedom to Learn Coalition is considering locations in southern Cheshire and southwestern Hillsborough counties for the school, he added.
“While several sites are currently being evaluated, no final decisions have been made as of this time,” Tanner said. “The efforts of the Coalition’s Board are primarily focused on completing the state charter application process and identifying potential candidates for school leader. As soon as these objectives are achieved, the Coalition will settle on its preferred location for the Academy and kick off the hiring and enrollment process in earnest.”
The Monadnock Freedom to Learn Coalition now has to submit information to the state education department, assuring that Monadnock Classical Academy would satisfy all legal requirements for a public charter school. After the department reviews that information, the application will go before the State Board of Education for a public hearing to decide whether or not to approve Monadnock Classical Academy’s charter.
If approved, Monadnock Classical Academy could become the fifth charter school in the region, according to the state Department of Education. Surry Village Charter School, which serves students in kindergarten through 8th grade, 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.
A new charter school, Gathering Waters Chartered Public School, is set to open in Keene this fall, after receiving approval from the N.H. State Board of Education in December.