The Siskiyou School History
The Siskiyou School is the second incarnation of a Waldorf school in the Rogue Valley. The first school operated for 20 years, on three sites and under two names. It began with a single class in Medford in 1980, then moved to Jacksonville as other classes formed. There it became known as The Light Valley Waldorf School. Eventually it relocated to Ashland where it renamed itself The Waldorf School of the Rogue Valley. In June 2000 that school suddenly closed its doors due to financial difficulties. A Waldorf community of over 140 students and families was left adrift.
The “Pod” Years
Within three months of that dramatic ending—by September 2000—the teachers and parents of four classes from the old school had figured out a way to carry on. Though they’d lost their campus and school support system, they were determined to have their children continue their Waldorf education. Independently, each teacher found a room to rent to hold class. Parents agreed to pay their teacher directly. Teachers agreed to accept whatever the parents could afford. Class teachers hired specialty teachers to round out the program for their students. The era of pod classes was born.
Within a year after the June 2000 closing, a “Core Group” of parents and teachers formed and committed to meeting regularly to plan for the future. In the spring of 2001 they applied to AWSNA for status as a Waldorf school seed effort and became known as the Siskiyou Initiative. Over the next few years they explored possible new school sites and held a vision that one day they’d find a location and funding for a new campus and thus be able to create a new base for Waldorf education in Ashland. It took six years for that intention to become reality.
Meanwhile, just about each year after the closing, a new Waldorf pod class formed and joined the growing flotilla of pods. Parents interested in Waldorf for their child(ren) found Waldorf-trained teachers to hire, helped round up enough students to form a viable class, and a space to rent that could serve as a classroom. While pod life was exciting and freeing, with a pioneer spirit prevailing among teachers and parents, a yearning grew within the Rogue Valley Waldorf-committed parent-teacher community for stability, predictability, and “being together again” on one campus.
The Rising of the Siskiyou School
In 2004, the collection of pods—seven in all by then—began to call itself the Siskiyou School though they still operated independently, on a couple of locations. There was no central administration, no set tuition, no salary scale or benefits for teachers, no agreed upon academic standards or expectations for the classes. All were undeniably, however, bound in their commitment to a Waldorf education for the children and a vision for a future together.
Then, in the spring of 2006, the way opened. A church property, right in town, which included a main building and an empty field in back, came up for sale. The property had been one of the sites where a couple of the pod classes had rented space for six years. Even though several more spacious sites had been considered over the years, the Clay Street site was tried and true and adjoined a large city park.
A handful of parent leaders saw its potential as the site for a full campus for the new Waldorf school and moved quickly. Most importantly, the timing and energy were right to mobilize the community.
Within three months, everything came together. A family lent “the school” the money to buy the property. 631 Clay Street becomes our property. A capital campaign was organized, and within just six weeks, $700,000 was raised, ensuring that classrooms could be built. With that certainty, in June 2006, the Board of the Siskiyou Initiative, hired an administrator to form a school out of the pods.
On September 11, 2006, just days after the 2006-2007 school year opened, a groundbreaking ceremony was held and crews began excavating the foundations for the new classroom buildings in the empty field behind the main building. Eight months later, in May 2007, a school-warming ceremony marked the completion of the first four classrooms and honored those who had ensured continuity between the old school and the new. For the first time since the closing of the Waldorf School of the Rogue Valley seven years prior, all Waldorf classes in Ashland were together on one site.