facebook tracking pixel Yuba River Charter breaks ground on new campus | TheUnion.com

Yuba River Charter breaks ground on new campus

Stephen Roberson
Staff Writer

The nine-year wait is over.

The 23-year-old Yuba River Charter School, which currently uses the old Nevada City Elementary School campus, broke ground on Thursday on a new $9.5 million, 22,575 square-foot campus on 15 acres at Rough and Ready Highway and Adam Avenue.

According to Ron Charles, who’s in his second year as school director and 10th year overall with Yuba River, said the plan right now is to move in for the fall semester in 2018, though the campus should be completed well before that.

“I think it’s going to mean room for kids to explore, get their hands dirty and learn in a beautiful environment,” Charles said, noting much of the school’s curriculum is outdoors-based.

Caleb Buckley, who was the director from 2004 to 2014 and oversaw much of the nine-year trek that led to Thursday’s groundbreaking, was confident the project would eventually happen. The initial plans were interrupted by the recession and stalled again when neighbors petitioned the county to force the school to work through the zoning process.

“I always knew this day would come. It was just a matter of timing,” Buckley said.


Staff, faculty, parents, students, administrators, community members and agency representatives attended Thursday’s ceremony for the first public Waldorf School.

Yuba River purchased three different parcels of land over the last seven years. Simile Construction will build the facility, designed by 450 architects. Adam Avenue will be widened to accommodate increased traffic.

The school went through a three-year process with the Nevada County Building Department to get final approval from the Board of Supervisors.

“It’s a proud day,” Buckley said. “It’s an incredible feat of cooperation.”

In addition to the building department and board of supervisors, the process also involved the Environmental Protection Agency, the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools, the California School Finance Authority, the Department of Toxic Substances Control, the California Department of Education and the Division of the State Architect.

The school is set in the back of the land in a natural bowl among ponderosa pine and cedar trees. Classrooms will nestle within the bowl, gradually working their way down the slope.

The school will have K-8 classroom buildings to accommodate 300 students and an administration commons building that includes an assembly room and library.


While beautiful, the land was once an environmental headache.

The site of the old Grass Valley burn dump, the school received a $600 brownfield program grant from the EPA to remove toxic lead waste. The cleanup project cost about $1 million, but it has its advantages.

“Now the site’s clean,” project manager Wayne Sjolund said. “That should be a big deal. I feel good about that, too.”

Eric Byous, a manager in the EPA’s Infrastructure Office Water Division, said the cleanup has financial benefits as well.

“When these brownfield sites are redeveloped, we see there’s a 5 to 15 percent increase in home values in the area,” he said, adding there’s usually a rise in tax revenue as well.

A pond and planted bioswales will manage all on-site surface runoff, a project made possible through an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant.

There are plans to add solar panels to both the classroom and administration buildings. One of the three parcels the school purchased will be designated for students to learn farm-to-table organic farming in partnership with Sierra Harvest.

To contact Staff Writer Stephen Roberson, email sroberson@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.