Utah County’s first Waldorf charter school is starting to become a reality.
Mountain Sunrise Academy’s leaders celebrated the future Saratoga Springs school’s groundbreaking Saturday several months before the school is scheduled to open this fall, and a couple of weeks before it will hold an enrollment lottery.
“A lot of people who are being drawn to the school are excited about Waldorf education and are excited it is here,” said Tim McGaughy, the chair of the school’s governing board.
Mountain Sunrise Academy will undergo a multiyear accreditation process to become recognized as a Waldolf school, utilizing a century-old educational model that embraces experiential learning, movement and a focus on nature and arts integration.
When complete, the school will sit at 1802 E. 145 North in Saratoga Springs and include features like a garden and a culinary kitchen.
The school received approval from the Utah State Charter School board last year to open. It will become the second public Waldorf school in Utah, following Wasatch Charter School in Holladay, and will join Treeside Charter School in Provo, which is Waldorf-inspired.
The school’s leaders were optimistic about finding available and affordable land to build on in northern Utah County.
“It is very hard to find land nowadays, and we were fortunate,” said Krystelle Rose, the school’s executive director. “I felt like this piece of property was reserved.”
Rose said the land was chosen because it is near the border of Lehi and Saratoga Springs and has quick access to Interstate 15.
The school will open with an enrollment of about 400 students spanning kindergarten through sixth grade before adding the seventh grade during its second year and eighth grade in its third year for a total cap of about 500 students. Students will stay with the same teacher as they move through the grades.
Rose said the school wants to keep its enrollment steady and isn’t looking for growth.
“We want to build a quality school instead of quantity,” Rose said.
The school will hold an enrollment lottery on Jan. 21. Rose said that enough students have applied to fill about 70% of its enrollment so far.
Mountain Sunrise Academy will be the first public charter school to open in Utah County since Ignite Entrepreneurship Academy began seeing students in Lehi in 2018. It will join dozens of other charter schools throughout the county.
Rose said Mountain Sunrise Academy has heard from parents who are looking to enroll their students in charter schools and have been on wait lists for four years.
McGaughy is a strong believer in the model after watching his own family receive a Waldorf-style education.
“It is just an incredible difference in their lives,” McGaughy said.
He said the school will hold ongoing trainings to educate teachers on the learning model.
For Emma James, the school is about finding what she sees to be a holistic approach to education.
“I am so in love with the Waldorf model,” James said.
James is on the school’s governing board and will have a kindergartener and a second grade student attending in the fall.
She said her first grade son brings home about an hour of homework every night from a public district school, which she doesn’t believe is the right approach to education.
“He needs that creative play that every kid has,” James said. “I feel like it is being stamped out, and it is frustrating.”
Movement and dance, she said, is more natural for students than sitting at a desk all day. She’s seen parents interested in the school’s model of nature-based play and arts integration.
James said obtaining Waldorf accreditation is important for the school instead of only being modeled or inspired by the educational model.
“We want it to be a comprehensive Waldorf experience,” James said.