FRUITLAND — For the first time in more than 30 years, the Olde School in Fruitland will have students in the classrooms, as the Treasure Valley Classical Academy was set to open its doors this morning for the first day of school.
The academy is a charter school in Fruitland, which will house kindergarten through sixth grade this school year. It will expand by one grade per year, eventually reaching grade 12.
The charter school will emphasize a “classical education” model, which according to the school’s website “prepares young people to live in freedom and independence, engaging them in the highest matters and the deepest questions of truth, justice, virtue and beauty.”
The academy is expected to have a full enrollment of 324 students — 54 per grade for kindergarten through fourth grade, and 27 students each in fifth and sixth grades. The allotment was set by the Idaho Public Charter School Commission.
The lottery system for the 2019-20 enrollment took place in April, and TVCA Principal Stephen Lambert said the school had received applications from 532 students.
At full enrollment, Lambert estimated the academy would have up to 702 students.
Before opening this fall, the Olde School required a full renovation.
According to Lambert, this included installing a completely new HVAC system, new electrical wiring throughout the building and LED lights in every room, as well as adding new security systems and getting the building up to compliance with ADA standards.
There were also other new additions, like classroom technology, paint and carpeting and fully networking the school for internet and WiFi access.
While the renovation process was long, Lambert said he’s excited to get to open the school and get to work.
“Renovating an old building is unappetizing and difficult,” Lambert said. “But working with kids is a pleasure. I’m excited to get little voices in the building again.”
Dedication to history
On the school’s logo and written on the arch as you enter the building are the words “virtus,” “scientia” and “felicitas,” which are Latin for “virtue,” “knowledge” and “happiness,” respectively.
“It’s a classical school. You will not get away without a Latin lesson,” Lambert said, laughing.
And to go along with the classical style of education, Lambert said he was excited to open the charter school as the Olde School is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. The Olde School, which housed Fruitland High School until 1986, was first opened in 1929.
“We’re bringing it back to its roots,” Lambert said. “This building has a deep connection to the city of Fruitland. We have the privilege to be a part of that.”
To show its dedication to history, the academy has a historical display in the front hallway with photos of old Fruitland. There are old photos of the school and the town and a picture of the class of 1986. In that class was Ronda Hall, who is now Ronda Baines and is the board chairwoman of the TVCA School Board of Directors.
While many locals were around to see the new school’s open house, few have as deep a connection to the Olde School as Konnie Baines. Baines attended and eventually taught at Fruitland High School when it was in the building on Southwest Third Street.
In the mid-90s, Baines and her husband, Donald, were the leaders of the Save Our School group, later changed to the 501C3 nonprofit group Alma Meter Inc., that kept the Olde School alive and turned it into the Olde School Community Center.
“It does my heart good,” Baines said, looking at the new school. “It’s back to doing what it needs to do. This should be a building of education.”
Donald Baines died in December of 2018, and Konnie Baines said he would have been happy to see what the Olde School has turned into.
“I’m just sorry my husband couldn’t be here to see it,” she said. “He’s smiling down on us today.”