New Waldorf-Based High School to Open

by Nat Frothingham

Beginning this September, a new central Vermont high school based on the teaching principles of Rudolf Steiner and his worldwide Waldorf schools will open at the Stokes Building on the Goddard College campus in Plainfield. For the past two years, a group of parents and educators have been making preparations for what is currently being called the Central Vermont High School Initiative.

According to a resources and expenditures statement, the new school has already raised $53,000 in pledges during its start-up campaign for each of the school’s first three foundational years, and this fundraising campaign is continuing. There is already a strong Waldorf school presence in Vermont with such schools as the Orchard Valley Waldorf School in East Montpelier, the Wellspring Waldorf School in Tunbridge, the Upper Valley Waldorf School in Quechee and the Lake Champlain Waldorf School in Shelburne. Organizers of the initiative said the new central Vermont high school is its own separate project and is not a continuation of the Orchard Valley Waldorf School.

“No, we are a separate entity,” said Joan Kahn, who is serving as coordinator of the new high school. “Orchard Valley was not ready to start a high school.”

One of the four teachers who has been hired for the new high school that will start in September is Stephan Vdoviak. He has close to 25 years of teaching experience and has worked with children and youth from prekindergarten through grade 12. He helped develop a high school program at the Lake Champlain Waldorf School and was high school coordinator there for five years. According to the online website of the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA), the organization that assists Waldorf school on matters of educational practice and accreditation, Vdoviak is currently serving as president of the board of trustees of AWSNA. It might therefore be surmised that Vdoviak could be a helpful person in guiding the new high school toward its long-term goal of Waldorf accreditation.

According to Vdoviak, the Waldorf approach to education “works out of a certain picture of human development.”

“Every individual has a physicality,” he said, meaning a physical body. “Also a soul. The artistic, the academic and the practical should be an integral part of every student’s experience.” In underscoring this integrated approach to learning, he said, “We would no more reduce our art program than we would reduce our math program.” Vdoviak said that the ultimate goal was to make students “well-rounded, social individuals.”

When Kahn was asked to explain the difference between learning at a public high school and learning in a Waldorf school, she said, “[Waldorf students] start with what [they] can see and observe, with concrete things [from their own experience] before they study theory.”

The annual tuition at this new central Vermont high school is $15,000. But Kahn said that the school realizes that most people can’t pay the full amount. She also said that the school is prepared to work with each family on a case-by-case basis. “We are not going to turn anyone away because of financial issues,” she said.

Kahn said there are already six to eight students enrolled in the ninth-grade class and that there might be as many as 15 students enrolled when the new high school opens in September.

Institutionally, according to Vdoviak, the new high school wants to become an independent school approved by the state of Vermont. That’s a first objective that could come as early as this fall. Then the new high school is seeking approval by the Vermont State Board of Education. As a long-term goal, the school hopes to become accredited as an official Waldorf high school.

For further information about the Central Vermont High School Initiative, visit the school website at: centravthighschool.word-press.com, join the schools’ e-mail list at info.cvhsi@gmail.com or phone 322-4408. Correspondence may be addressed to P.O. Box 976, Montpelier, VT 05601.