Medford School District school board member Peggy Penland tours the West Side School, which will become a temporary home to Jackson Elementary School students and a potential future home for Madrone Trail charter school. pennell photo

Madrone school takes root

Medford's first charter school will convene classes next year in a child care center formerly used by the Medford YMCA.

The Madrone Trail Public Charter School Board has made a verbal agreement to lease the 3,666-square-foot building at 129 N. Oakdale Ave. for two years at $3,666 per month. Board members expect to sign a contract next week.

The Waldorf-style school, sponsored by the Medford School District, will debut in September with about 75 pupils in grades kindergarten through 2 after more than two years of preparation.

"I'm very excited," said board member Daniele Anderson. "We finally have a place to anchor our energy."

The Madrone Trail board had initially sought to lease the former Naval Reserve Center in the old West Side School from the school district to establish its charter school.

The Medford School Board denied their request, citing liability and costs associated with bringing the vacant structure up to building codes during a time when the district is engaged in multiple capital projects funded by a $189 million bond measure voters approved in November.

But on Tuesday, the Medford School Board voted to renovate the Naval Reserve and temporarily house primary pupils from Jackson Elementary unexpectedly displaced because of unsafe conditions at the 95-year-old structure at Jackson Street.

"At the time when Madrone Trail asked to lease the Naval Reserve, it did not seem prudent to put resources toward that building when we are involved in heavy remodeling at other schools," said Medford School Board President Larry Nicholson. "We had an emergency (with Jackson and Roosevelt Elementary), so we had to re-evaluate our resources. Here, we have an opportunity to invest in an asset that we could lease out later and recoup the money we've spent."

The cost of upgrading the Naval Reserve is estimated at $350,000. Move-in costs and adding three portable classrooms will cost another $168,000.

The move could open the way for Madrone Trail to lease the Naval Reserve in two years when Jackson pupils are expected to return to their campus, where the old school may be replaced or remodeled.

"The reason our lease at the YMCA is for two years is after two years we will grow out of that building," Anderson said.

Madrone Trail organizers plan to add a grade each year through the eighth grade and hope to use the Naval Reserve in 2009, if it's vacant.

"It's a coincidence that Jackson students are going to the West Side School for two years," Anderson said. "We don't know whether that space will be available in two years. What if the school district doesn't have enough money for all the bond projects? Maybe those kids are going to stay at the Naval Reserve."

The Madrone Trail board has also chosen finalists for a school director and three teaching positions.

The finalist for school director is David Darcy, enrollment director at the private Austin Waldorf School in Austin, Texas.

The Madrone Trail Board selected college graduate Amy Rudolph, of Talent, to teach kindergarten.

David Witt, owner of a private early childhood school in Fair Oaks, Calif., will teach first grade. Pamela DeHart, teacher for an Ashland-based Waldorf-methods home-school group, was chosen to teach second grade.

Funded through the state, charter schools operate independently through their sponsoring school district, charge no tuition and accept anyone who wants to attend as space permits without an inter-district transfer.

Elementary charter schools receive 80 percent of the state's per-student funding, estimated at more than $6,000 per pupil next year in the Medford district. The difference goes to the sponsoring school district.

Though not accredited by the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America, plans for the Madrone Trail school call for using Waldorf methods, including incorporating movement, nature, music and art across its curriculum.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or

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