A new school, bringing a mixture of self-directed and democratic direction, is looking to open its doors in Texoma with a permanent location. Representatives for the EC Stanton Texoma Community School recently spoke before the Sherman Planning and Zoning Commission and requested permits to open a new school at 214 W. Brockett.
The proposed establishment will follow the Sudbury School, which advocates for encouraging the traits and interests of students while allowing them to direct their own educational pathway.
“A Sudbury School model is a self-directed education style,” said school co-founder Micaela Hoops, who previously served as a clerk for the Herald Democrat. “We as staff members have skills in which we are degreed, but we act more as mentors and guides to the students in helping them achieve their educational goals.”
The model is named after the Sudbury Valley School, which was founded in 1968 in Farmington, Massachusetts. In the 50 years since the school was founded, more than 60 schools have been created worldwide using a similar model.
The Sherman school is the sister campus of another EC Stanton Community School, which was founded in Fort Worth several years ago. That school also follows the Sudbury model.
“E.C. Stanton Community School strives to encourage each student to reach their full personal potential,” the Fort Worth school’s website said. “The school, through use of the democratic process and self-directed education, will respect the development of the whole child at their own pace and in their own way. It is our mission to provide a high quality, student-centered education to all children in an environment that embraces diversity, creativity, and the joy of living and learning.”
The Texoma school officially opened this past fall by utilizing facilities within the Leap of Faith Church. However, organizers soon started efforts to find their own building. Co-founder Courtney Bradford said the church building had limitations, including the ability for the classes to spread out and for students to move easily between lessons.
It was during the transition to the new building that organizers learned that they needed to acquire special permitting with the city to open at the location. In the interim, classes have been held at private homes and at public facilities, including museums and local libraries.
Hoops said the school currently has 17 students enrolled, with a capacity for about 19 students. The school utilizes six volunteer staff members, many of which have children attending classes. Hoops did note during the P&Z meeting that the school is not accredited, but added that it is not required to be by the state.
Bradford said she has two children, ages 12 and 9, who are currently enrolled in EC Stanton. Bradford described her children’s educations prior to enrolling as a mixture of home school, private school and public school. The decision to seek an alternative came last year after her son was having anxiety about school and was reluctant to attend classes.
“Self-directed education is something I have been interested in for some time,” she said.
Students at the school arrive between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. allowing time for a daily meeting with all students. During the meeting, the students are given the agenda for the day and information on classes taking place and other outings.
“The children are able to spend their time after that meeting in the ways that they’ve laid out for themselves,” she said.
Disputes and rule violations are resolved by a judicial committee, which meets after lunch. These cases are resolved by a committee of students and staff that are decided at random each day.
The remainder of the afternoon is made up of lessons and learning activities until the students are picked up.
The school asks that students spend at least 20 hours a week in class, over the course of at least three days a week.
Bradford said the current make up of the students of the school ranges from young children to one that is 17 years old. For high school, the studies tend to lean toward more traditional topics, she said. For example, topics for Monday’s classes included engineering and technology, while other students chose to focus on cooking.
For those considering college, Bradford said the school is working with both Grayson College and Austin College to discuss what they need to do in order to be able to enroll. In some cases, this has led them to focus their studies on this path.