Waldorf 2.0

Santa Fe Waldorf applies to become a charter school

The Santa Fe Waldorf School may have a chance to reopen in the fall of 2025 as one of New Mexico’s 104 public charter schools if the Public Education Commission approves.

As a state-authorized charter school, Waldorf would be funded by and operate under the Public Education Department’s requirements as an alternative educational model.

The Waldorf Board of Trustees, while in negotiations to sell its high school property to Santa Fe Preparatory School, sent a notice of intent to the Public Education Department Jan. 9 to apply to become a public charter school, renamed as Sangre de Cristo Public Waldorf School. A full application must be submitted to the state’s Charter Schools Division no later than July 1, and chartering authorities would decide by Sept. 1 whether to approve or deny the application.

The development comes nearly half a year after the private Waldorf school, known for its outdoor learning program and hands-on fine and practical arts programs, unexpectedly closed a few weeks before the start of the 2023-2024 school year, citing a low enrollment of 138 students. Since then, its trustees say they’ve been working toward repaying parents for advance tuition.

“The first priority of the SFWS Board is to refund tuition to our families through the sale of the high school parcel,” Board trustee Jayita Sahni tells SFR in an emailed statement on behalf of the board. “We have made some progress on that front in recent days and have communicated this to our community.”

Concurrently, she writes, the board “has also started the process of exploring a re-emergence of Waldorf education in Santa Fe” and has brought on “new board members who are actively engaged in figuring out what that re-emergence looks like.”

Several of the new Waldorf board members, including Briana Bassler and Zoe Wilcox, are former teachers and parents of students at the school. Emails to Waldorf parents and alumni since this summer promote the board’s “listening campaign,” through which trustees “reach out to families about their wishes for Waldorf education in Santa Fe moving forward.”

In the notice of intent signed by Sahni, along with trustees Bassler, Daniel Wendland and Matthew Burritt (listed as founders), the board expects a charter school “to draw students” from all five ZIP codes in Santa Fe County as well as from surrounding communities in Northern New Mexico, rural communities and tribal lands, with a projected enrollment of 275 students based on Waldorf’s highest enrollment record from the 2006-2007 school year.

“We have learned through our ongoing listening campaign that the desire for Waldorf education remains strong in our community, and we expect many of these former students and families to enroll in the lottery for the Sangre de Cristo Public Waldorf School,” the letter says.

However, some former Waldorf parents have already moved on from the school since its August 2023 closure. Jeff Jedlowski, a former Waldorf parent who has yet to receive the $2,500 he paid for a month’s tuition, says he and at least 12 other families he knows have since enrolled students at Desert Montessori School.

“The [Waldorf] parents I’ve talked to and the parents who know about what happened all think Waldorf is not even an option anymore,” Jedlowski tells SFR. “I’ll be shocked if they open up their doors next year, just due to enrollment.”

Despite the naysaying, the board believes a significant number of new families would enroll—in no small part because of free tuition. The school would also serve neurodivergent students with its “holistic, student-built curriculum,” it writes.

“We have also spoken with multiple families not enrolled in the former Santa Fe Waldorf School who would be interested in a holistic Waldorf education with the barrier of tuition removed,” the notice reads. “By turning to a charter school model, we expect to increase access to a Waldorf education to all interested families regardless of their financial circumstances.”

If PEC approves the charter application, the proposed school enters its planning year, when the school team completes a checklist of required steps before the authorizer (either the state or the local school district) approves the school to open for a five-year maximum contract period.

The notice of intent says more than 80 “one-on-one conversations and small group workshops demonstrate that there is a strong support for a Waldorf Charter School in the Santa Fe Community.”

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