Tucson Waldorf School: A Beacon of Hope in the Southwest
March 3, 2011
Several months ago, representatives from borrower Tucson Waldorf School paid a visit to RSF to share with staff how RSF financing has been put to work at their school. In the months since, I’ve continued conversations with members of the school’s staff and board learning more about the programs they are leading to expand this Waldorf Community. We invited Laura Alexander, TWS parent and Board Member, to share this work with our readers.
By Laura Alexander
Here in Tucson we like to think of our Waldorf school as a beacon of hope in an otherwise challenging educational environment. Just like the stalwart Saguaro cactus, we bloom and thrive in the desert despite the harsh, dry climate. The Tucson Waldorf School (TWS) is the only independent Waldorf School in the state of Arizona, a state that now ranks 50th in education nationwide. Since 1993 our school has offered a critical educational alternative for our children, more important now than ever as our State legislature continues to make budget cuts to education funding.
TWS plans to continue thriving despite the harsh environment. In fact, we are growing our enrollment and our facilities to match the increasing local interest in Waldorf education. TWS is in the middle of a $3.3 million construction process and capital campaign to build a solid, sustainable, model school in our region (we’ve raised $2.5 million and have $800,000 to go). This effort includes an environmentally sustainable facility and campus, as well as a biodynamic farm and community supported agriculture program on campus. Plans are also underway to incorporate a farm-to-table school lunch program that may provide a sustainable funding model for the school.
Thanks in part to loans from RSF Social Finance, TWS has grown steadily over the past two decades and now offers pre-K through grade 8 to around 150 children. TWS is considered a developing school by the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA), and plans to become AWSNA-accredited in the next five years. The school has an incredible faculty and staff, and a very dedicated core of parent volunteers.
In 2008 the school received an extraordinary, transformational gift when a small group of donors gave $2 million toward the purchase of just under 10 acres on River Road, a pocket of rural land in the heart of the city. The ten-acre “River Bend” campus includes the original house, two outbuildings, and several horse stalls – all of which have been renovated and adapted for use as a school (yes, even the horse stalls, which have become the lunch room, woodworking classroom, and more!). The River Bend campus currently houses grades 4-8, while pre-K through grade 3 continue to operate at our second campus on Presidio Road.
TWS enjoys a wonderful, symbiotic relationship with River Road Gardens , a for-profit biodynamic farm and CSA. River Road Gardens yields more than 10,000 lbs. of produce each year, which it distributes to shareholders and community members at weekly farmer’s markets held on campus. The Gardens also serves as a tremendous educational resource where students learn to plant, harvest and care for a variety of crops.
In December 2010 TWS launched the River Bend Campus Capital Campaign for the construction of two grade school buildings. Due to be completed in the Fall 2011, the new buildings will house four classrooms with the capacity for up to 96 children. This will allow TWS to move grades 1-8 to River Bend and expand the capacity of the Presidio campus to house more early childhood students, allowing the school to grow its capacity and sustainability.
If you would like to learn more about the Tucson Waldorf School or the River Bend Campus Construction and Capital Campaign, visit our website at: www.tucsonwaldorf.org. You can also click here to watch a video about our school.
The Tucson Waldorf School is a borrower of the RSF Social Investment Fund. To learn how you can help RSF make more loans like this one, click here.