The school, which has had its main location in Maryland since 2009, will find out next week if it has the means to go forward for 2016-17.
School parents and teachers found out in May that the school’s founder, Alan Shusterman, had badly mismanaged the school’s finances, according to a Washington Post article this week. Shusterman has since left his post, but the issues remain.
The school community is trying to raise awareness — and money — in order to go forward, said Rich Forsen of Herndon, chairman of the school’s board of directors and parent of a 10th grader.
“We are disappointed the school could be in jeopardy,” he said. He said he was drawn to the school because of it’s individualization for the students.
“In general, students are encouraged to be themselves,” he said.
Forsen said the school community has raised about $70,000, but it may not be enough to pay teachers and operate School for Tomorrow. In Reston, where there were 18 students last school year, they need about five more students or $150,000 to go forward.
Tuition is $32,500 a year, but many students had been receiving financial aid, which is also in jeopardy. There is a Go Fund Me page to try and raise scholarship money.
Forsen said many families left the school after the financial issues were disclosed last spring. He says he has been too busy trying to save the school to look at other options for his son.
The school will hold an open house Wednesday night from 6 to 8 p.m. at the school, 11480 Sunset Hills Rd. in Reston.
Jessica Wallach of Reston teaches photography as part of an interdisciplinary approach at School for Tomorrow.
“It would be such a loss to our community,” if the school closes, she said.
She said the school does a great job of meeting students’ individual needs — some come to School for Tomorrow because they are “twice exceptional” (gifted but also with learning differences) or have been bullied to public school just was not a fit for them.
“It would be such a shame if the school has to close,” she said. “We are so close to where we want to be.”
Photo: Students at School forTomorrow/Credit: Jessica Wallach
School for Tomorrow, a non-traditional private school based in Rockville, Md., will open a Reston location in late August for students in grades 6-12.
The school has signed a lease for 11480 Sunset Hills Rd., about a half-mile from the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station. It aims to aims between 10 and 40 registered students by its the time it opens its doors, said Reston Head of School Laura DeLima.
Once enrolled, students won’t be taking regimented classes like trigonometry or civics, says DeLima. Instead, they’ll learn about “conceptual” subjects that stress an array of skills and projects instead of memorizing facts and formulas.
“It’s very heavy on concepts and writing skills, problem solving skills, critical thinking skills, and creativity,” says DeLima. “But it also has a broad range of disciplines that we encourage like geography, psychology, and neuroscience.”
At the beginning of each trimester, School for Tomorrow students work with teachers to develop a customized learning plan. Though they have growth goals to achieve, those goals are developed by what a student is interested in doing or achieving. And they’re not entirely academic in nature. For example, a student might strive to grow emotionally in some way.
“We include emotional, social, and physical wellbeing and hold them to be as important as academic growth,” DeLima says. “Students are not only assessed on an academic basis, but also in their growth on things like resilience and self-esteem.”
That’s not to say students won’t be learning some of the usual textbook. Literature, economics, politics, culture, and math are all still in the school’s curriculum. What’s different is the way in which students learn those subjects, says DeLima.
For instance, a typical assignment might have students planning an environmentally friendly utopian city or working through problem-based courses. Students are free to work through problems however they see fit, so long as it meets the course goal. Along the way, they’re free to take breaks, eat lunch when they please, and collaborate openly.
That freedom is also part of the natural learning process, says DeLima.
“It’s much more engaging that way,” she says. “The reality of life is that we move between kinds of thinking all the time.”
School for Tomorrow was founded in 2009, and its Rockville location now has more than 80 registered students. And DeLima says the school is growing fast. She estimates the Reston location could hit 100 students by 2020.
Annual tuition for the school is $32,500, but financial aid will be offered on a case-by-case basis, the school says. The school day runs from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., which SFT says it more aligned with the sleep clock of teenagers.
The school will host an informational panel of current students, parents, and teachers at the new Reston location on April 26 at 5 p.m.