<< Now to the sticky wicket: What do you think is the _minimum_ number of
students needed to provide both a diverse enough atmosphere and make a go of
it financially? What is the farthest commute your students make? How far
away do the boarders live? What is the "feel" at school in "John Gatto"
terms, i.e., is it a "network" or a "community"? What are the biggest
challenges facing a rural start-up group? >>
Hoo boy! Some excellent questions! Here I go (wish me luck!):
I have heard of schools that strated with three kids and 5 part-time staff. I
don't know how they feel about those numbers, but they seem small to me. When
Highland (which I am on the board of, but no longer teaching at) gets below
10, I get nervous.
Students have come from as far as 50 minutes one way on a daily basis. Some
may actually take longer if you add up the time they ride on the public school
bus to one of the high schools and the time they ride on the school van.
Boarders have come from all over...mostly east coast. You could e-mail the
school at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for more current info.
I haven't read John's stuff in which he makes that distinction, so I'll have
to use my own definitions. I see the school as more of a community. In fact,
for many of the families, it serves much the same community-centric role that
neighborhood public schools do for most folks.
The biggest challenges are (in no particular order): Finding common ground
among a diverse population. Convincing (often) conservative rural folks of
the merits of this type of education. Getting kids and teachers (Highland has
used student teach from Antioch extensively). Finding ways to hook up with
the larger community. Overcoming your own conservatism, no matter how radical
you see yourself to be. Hanging in there past the relatively easy early
"Honeymoon Stage" through the "Terrible Twos" of group formation. Mostly,
being able to live with ambiguity and a lack of control...the most vital
skill/attitude a democratic school staff member or parent (or student needs)
is to be able to live without the ability to know everything that's going on
and/or to be in control. (I often said that if I knew everything that was
going on in my school or classroom, then there isn't enough going on!)
Best wishes for great success!