ONTARIO — “We’re not here to become a college factory. That’s soul sucking.”
Steve Lambert spoke these words to attendees of the weekly Ontario Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Monday. He serves as principal of Treasure Valley Classical Academy, an upcoming Fruitland-based public charter school offering a classical education devoted to teaching classical liberal arts and sciences, as well as instruction in principles of moral character and virtue, that is still on for a fall 2019 start date.
Lambert highlighted reasons why many of the current models of education — kindergarten through 12th grade — have become flawed. In addition, he talked about why a classical education model serves to “grow citizens from the bottom up,” Lambert said.
“That the purpose of K-12 education,” he said to the audience.
Treasure Valley Classical Academy will only offer grades kindergarten through sixth in its inaugural year. One additional grade will be added each following year, until it becomes a full K-12 program, according to the school’s webpage.
The school has a limited number of spots available for prospective students. According to a post from Lambert on the school’s website, each grade can enroll up to 54 students.
Should 54 or fewer intent-to-enroll forms be received for a grade, the school will offer admission to each of those students. However, if more than 54 submissions are received for any one grade, a lottery will be instituted for that grade. Those who ended up not receiving a spot would be placed on a numerical wait list.
According to the school’s website, the first lottery will be held for grades K-6 on April 12. So far, Treasure Valley Classical Academy has received 290 intent-to-enroll applications, with 26 percent for kindergarten, and with even distribution from first through sixth grade. Of those who have submitted the applications, 71 percent hail from Fruitland and Payette, 11 percent from New Plymouth, and the rest from Emmett, Weiser, Parma and, even farther out.
Building a citizen
“Could we self govern?”
Lambert referenced a question once asked by former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, and applied it to the modern setting.
It’s a question he then tied to what was once opined by founding father James Madison: “Without virtue and knowledge, we would lose our republic.”
And therein lies what Treasure Valley Classical Academy is seeking to instill in its students.
The school’s core virtues reflect this mission: courage, courtesy, honesty, perseverance, self-government and service.
Lambert used the metaphor of building a house to that of building a citizen, starting with the foundation, working up through the walls, windows and doors, and up to the roof.
The foundation of a human, Lambert said, cannot be built on anything other than character, which the school will attempt to instill in its students from the beginning.
“But a foundation doesn’t build a house,” Lambert said.
Curriculum for the academy for grades K-6 focuses on liberal arts, and revolves around classical literature, history/geography, science, mathematics, visual arts and music, Spanish for K-6 students, Greek/Latin roots for grades 4 through 6, and physical education.
The idea of the academy actually came from a grassroots effort and was founded by a group of Treasure-Valley area citizens.
Consortium of partners
The academy is also a member of the Hillsdale College Barney Charter School Initiative. Hillsdale College has assisted the school in creating and implementing a challenging and engaging academic program, and providing the curriculum design and teacher training that will serve as the foundation for a liberal and civic education. It should also be noted that the academy has garnered the support of a consortium of partners that are invested in the school’s launch and future success, including the nonprofit charter support organizations Bluum and Building Hope, and the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation.
Building Hope, for example, is overseeing the $3 million building renovation contract for the Olde School Building, in Fruitland, where the school will be housed.
According to Lambert through an update on the school’s website, the contract has been awarded to a major Boise-area contractor with expertise in school construction and renovation. That contractor will, when done, be bringing the facility up to code and safety standards, while maintaining the historical look and feel of the building, Lambert wrote. Roof repair and replacement, internal classroom remodeling, HVAC replacement, ADA and accessibility upgrades, fire control and sprinkler installation, electrical upgrades, lighting upgrades, security and access control systems, networking systems, and the installation of a full-service, commercial-grade kitchen are many of the items on that contract.