New Heights School is a small K-12 public charter school established in 1993 and currently operates high atop the North Hill of Stillwater, MN. New Heights School was the first K-12 charter school to ever open in the United States and is currently operating in its twenty-eighth year.
When New Heights School opened in 1993, school officials weren’t sure what type of population would enroll, but soon realized that the school was becoming a safe-space for students who were struggling in the fast-paced, less accommodating district schools in the area. Over time, New Heights School began making very necessary adjustments needed to best serve the school’s population. Among these changes, New Heights School added: smaller class sizes; relational teachers and staff; differentiation strategies; a no-homework policy; a culture of mutual courtesy and respect; and personal responsibility. These additions became cornerstones to the school’s foundation.
The local school district serves approximately 9000 students of which approximately 15% are diagnosed with learning disabilities and are eligible to receive special education services. And, at New Heights School, approximately 35%-40% of the school’s students qualify for special education services. In addition, approximately 50% of our students come from impoverished homes, which is substantial considering only 15% of district students come from similar backgrounds. The model New Heights School established in 1993 has become a safe space for the marginalized students of the area.
In 2016 New Heights School was offered an opportunity to purchase the school’s facility from the local district it leased its property from. Through a partnership with a certain non-profit organization, New Heights School was finally able to gain the security of knowing that it had a permanent facility to continue on with the important mission of educating its students. Acquiring the facility provided the school with much more flexibility to make some necessary improvements to the space, especially the physical aspects of the property. One of the areas that desperately needs renovation is the playground area located in back of the school on the East side of the property. This space, while technically feasible, is not well-equipped, especially for students who have special needs or physical limitations.
During our exploration and dive into “what is possible,” we were able to get acquainted with the founders of the Madison Claire Foundation, whose primary purpose is to work with communities to establish new, all-inclusive play spaces for students of all ages and abilities, but especially for students who have physical limitations and who cannot access the features of more traditional play spaces. The Madison Claire Foundation has worked with a team of designers, teachers, administrators, case managers, and community members to design a proposed play area that would not only serve all students of New Heights School well into the future regardless of special needs or ability levels, but would double as a community park open for the public’s use. This type of inclusive space is not common yet. New Heights School would be on the front end of this emerging, revolutionary new trend of creating inclusive spaces designed to allow the young and elderly, as well as the able-bodied and disabled to share a common space with one another and play. This well-designed space has features that people of all ages and ability levels can enjoy simultaneously, meaning full families would likely make this new play space a destination for years or decades to come.
We would like to gain your support to make this proposed project a reality. To become more informed, simply look at the pictures and and rendition on this site to see our proposed inclusive playground for yourself. If you like and believe in what you see, you may be further inclined to offer your financial support. Any gift of any size will be welcomed. Once the space is constructed, there will be no fee assessed to the people who will enjoy using it. This space will be free to the public, but in order to make it happen, we need the support of people like you who have the same dreams we do; which includes the opportunity for ALL people to share in the good times our thoughtfully designed play space will provide.
Please feel free to check out our school website by following this link.