Yuba River Charter School’s new campus nears completion
When the Yuba River Charter School community sought a location to build its new campus, it chose a wooded plot of land just off Rough and Ready Highway.
The land itself is spacious and sunny, surrounded by oaks, cedars and pines. A vast meadow, which will serve as the school’s farming and garden area, stretches beyond the horizon, dotted with lavender and poppies. It is a reminder of Nevada County’s natural beauty.
Yuba River Charter Business Manager Susan Egan has enjoyed being part of the process of building a new school. Although Egan retired on Friday, she said the school will always hold a special place in her heart.
“I get chills when I think about it,” Egan said. “(This will be) our fifth home in 24 years. Our fifth and final home. Our school is solid already, but it’s really going to realize itself here.”
Egan credits former school director Caleb Buckley with beginning the process of realizing the new campus.
“He was the person who said, ‘We need to fly to Orange County and look at this grant,’” Egan said. “He’s the one who planted the seed.”
‘Inspired by the land’
San Francisco architecture firm 450 Architects took care when conceptualizing the school’s design. Before ground was broken, the firm sat on the land from sunrise to sunset to study the pattern of the sun and where its light fell throughout the day.
“The school was designed to optimize the sun for lighting in the class,” Egan said. “We’d like as much natural light as possible. The design was very inspired by the land rather than designing and trying to fit it into the land.”
Egan said the Waldorf curriculum places special emphasis on the education that happens outside the four walls of a classroom and in nature. It was important to teachers, parents and staff for the kids to have access to the outdoors and farming land.
“Our curriculum is so integrated into nature and kids doing and using their hands,” said Egan. “We want them to experience science and nature through the real wonders of it.”
Simile Construction out of Modesto won the bid to complete the project, and school officials anticipate that it will be done before school begins in September.
The campus comes with an $11.5 million price-tag, of which $9.5 million was funded by the state — half of that to be paid via mortgage, the other half a grant. The school contributed $1.8 million through its own fundraising efforts.
“Parents have been giving a large amount of money to the school for the last 10 years,” said Egan. “The parents are crucial in all the work we’ve done. They are the ones who will make the magic happen.”
The funds the school received for the project were designated to be used solely for new construction, so remodeling an existing structure was not an option. The new buildings that make up the campus were built using the greenest materials possible, Egan said, and the school will only use natural eco-friendly cleansers to maintain facilities.
PLANNED September ribbon cutting
Having spent a considerable amount of time on the new campus, Egan has grown quite fond of the property and its potential. She has not one but many favorite parts, and said the grove of oaks sitting along the pathway to the future garden and farm location remind her of days gone by, a simpler time when kids would walk down open country roads.
“I love our library, especially since libraries are becoming a thing of the past,” Egan said. “I love that we still have books, mixed with technology. We will have computers in there too, of course.”
Most special to Egan, however, is the prominent cedar tree located in the center of the campus, a welcoming sight for those entering the school’s breezeway. Egan said the tree is symbolic of the school and its strength.
“That cedar is the tall anchoring centerpiece for the school, it’s so grounding,” she said.
The tree stands majestically over the natural bowl shape of the land, which will soon become the school’s amphitheater.
A ribbon cutting ceremony will be held in September. In addition to the number of local and international artists who are collaborating on the new school site, parents of some of the students have created silk flags that will be hung at the opening.
Egan said with all of the excitement around the construction, she has never lost sight of the school’s goal to create an exceptional learning environment for its 300 students.
“The school doesn’t come alive until the children are there,” she said. “That’s when it’s living. I know it will flourish.”
Jennifer Nobles is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4231.
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