Community is a buzzword used in virtually every mission statement or self-description of almost every school in the country. The reasons are esteemed, but the reality is rarely attained for most children and families. Sadly, small schools, and community schools in particular, have become all but nonexistent. Modern schools simply serve too large a geographic area. Children attend schools full of strangers.
At the Gold Hill School there are no strangers. The school serves a small community tied together by mountain topography, and has done so continuously since 1873. The school owes its record of 136 consecutive years of operation to its proximity to the city of Boulder below, and the vast wilderness of the Continental Divide above. Bringing young children to Boulder for schooling, either by horse and wagon, or bus, is out of the question. So what has endured is one of the best kept secrets in modern American public education –a real community school.
At the Gold Hill School each parent knows every family, and each child knows not only every other child’s name, but details of their daily lives. Further, it’s a school in which the teachers have known the majority of children since preschool, and will know them intimately through their entire elementary school years. As teacher, Sue Kidder, puts it, “Each new school year is not a starting over, it’s the continuation of a growing relationship. Such intimacy puts me into the best possible position to meet a given child’s educational and social needs.”
With a capacity of 35 children from Kindergarten through 5th grade, the ideals of individualized, experiential instruction are truly realized. Children are challenged at their own level, with no ceiling imposed. In this unique environment younger children draw inspiration from the efforts and accomplishments of their older classmates, while older children gain confidence and experience working with the younger.
In-class experiences are easily extended into the surrounding town, forests and meadows. At the same time the arts and science academies of Boulder are within reach, allowing a rich stream of visiting scientists, artists, writers, and musicians to regularly enter our children’s lives. Farther ranging field trips are easily managed. A group our size is easy to transport and is generously welcomed almost anywhere we choose to go.
Idyllic? We think so. The Gold Hill School provides children the academic and social competence to fully participate in the global community of the 21st century.