The former Gold Ridge Elementary School campus in Rohnert Park next next fall will become home to the first public Waldorf-inspired high school in the North Bay.
Credo High School is expected to pull students from the seven public kindergarten through eighth grade Waldorf-inspired schools in Sonoma, Marin and Napa counties to fill 100 freshmen slots in its inaugural year.
Cotati-Rohnert Park District officials will provide administrative and budgetary oversight for the charter school.
Interest is "very strong," said school developer Chip Romer of Sonoma. "People are willing to come from as far as Napa and Novato. They have been wanting this for many years."
About 250 people attended an open house on the Gold Ridge campus in November, Romer said. A second open house is scheduled for Saturday.
"This is sort of hotbed of Waldorf education in the whole world, this region. I feel like this it's a natural next step," said Susan Olson, executive director of Sebastopol Independent Charter School, a Waldorf-inspired K-8 campus established in 1995.
Olson also serves on Credo's board of directors.
The Waldorf name is trademarked and affiliated with private schools that adhere to a philosophy of an arts-heavy curriculum that is based on a student's natural developmental progress.
In Sonoma County, private Summerfield Waldorf serves kindergarten through 12th graders on their Willowside Road campus in west Santa Rosa. Annual tuition for the 94 high school students is $16,250 and 35 percent of those students receive some level of financial assistance, according to the school.
As a public "Waldorf-inspired" charter school, the curriculum will follow Waldorf philosophy but will remain public. Credo is expected to receive state funding and students will be required to meet state and federal academic standards.
Romer expects to be granted a $370,000 two-year, start-up grant from the California Department of Education. But he called Credo's vision a "very expensive proposition."
Families will be asked to contribute $200 a month to support the curriculum, he said. No student can be denied entry for lack of funds or because of special education needs.
"It's really enriched curriculum that can't be funded by the state" average daily attendance funding, he said.
All graduates will be required to complete the so-called A-through-G college preparatory curriculum necessary to apply to any California State University and University of California campus.
"We will not turn people away. We cannot turn people away," he said. "They will be challenged, they will be supported, but they better be serious students if they want to be with us," he said.
The goal is to enroll 100 freshmen in the first year from the approximately 160 eighth graders who graduate from the seven Waldorf-inspired "feeder schools," according to Romer. To date, 50 families have signed up for the fall, he said.
"I think we are the solution to the woes in public education or at least one solution," Romer said of the alternative curriculum that puts an emphasis on music, foreign language and throwback skills like bookbinding, blacksmithing, knitting, and black and white print making.
"What they are learning is delayed gratification and perseverance," Romer said. "It's a sadly missing thing in our culture. Everybody wants gratification yesterday."
In Waldorf-inspired campuses, textbooks are rare. Credo teachers will be required to be credentialed if they are teaching core subjects like English, math and science, but not if they are teaching non-core curriculum.