Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012
Merced County's first independent charter school opens in Los Banos
By Corey Prideemail@example.com
Los Banos became home to Merced Countys first independent Waldorf inspired public school on Tuesday
Green Valley Charter School celebrated its opening with 75 kindergarteners through third-graders, their parents, city officials and other dignitaries.
The school's model is based on the Waldorf education method, which emphasizes arts and crafts, music and embracing the environment.
Tisha Blackwood-Freitas, principal and CEO of the organization that oversees the school, said opening a Waldorf-inspired facility was monumental to the San Joaquin Valley.
"To be able to offer this curriculum to our community is a valuable addition. You can't get this anywhere else," she said.
Mayor Mike Villalta, like Blackwood-Freitas, was once a new principal.
"I remember my first day as a principal of Los Banos Junior High School. She's going to have a smile from ear to ear all day long. This is just a wonderful occasion, having a new school open in Los Banos," Villalta said.
Los Banos Unified School District Superintendent Steve Teitjen welcomed Green Valley Charter School. The district rents space to the school at R.M. Miano Elementary School , but Green Valley Charter operates independently.
"We're excited to have a new option available for parents and children in our community," Tietjen said. "It was easy to support the main drivers of this charter because they brought a real option. It wasn't one of those charters that just wants to come and take money and put kids on independent study. It's a charter that's going to have students engaged in a real curriculum option in a real school."
The school will expand by a grade level each year until it serves kindergarten through eighth grade. Because of that, the school will need a new location in about three years.
Students keep the same teacher throughout their time at the school.
Green Valley Charter School originally planned to open with 125 students. As of Tuesday, its kindergarten class was full and a waiting list had been established. School staff said there is still room in first, second and third grades.
The school includes four teachers, two assistants and a handful of office staff and administrators. Yaochi Abarca of the Abarca Group will teach music and Mandarin. Spanish also will be taught at the school.
At Friday's opening ceremony, each class gave a gift to another class that would assist with that grade-level's curriculum. The third grade was given a shovel, representing gardening work and learning about the substantial farming community that exists in and around Los Banos. Other gifts included crafts and storybooks.
Blackwood-Freitas, whose school received a three-year federal grant for $575,000, said Green Valley Charter School will succeed. "It's going to work because Waldorf curriculum assimilates to the community. It really brings out what the community is," Blackwood-Freitas said.