Lionheart Classical Academy holds open house

  • Lionheart Classical Academy is set to open its doors in September. —STAFF PHOTO BY JULIA STINNEFORD

  • Executive Director Kerry Bedard and Principal Elizabeth Wilber present Lionheart’s curriculum and philosophies to prospective parents. —STAFF PHOTO BY JULIA STINNEFORD

  • Parents from the Monadnock Region attend an open house for Lionheart Classical Academy. —STAFF PHOTO BY JULIA STINNEFORD

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/24/2022 12:45:39 PM
Modified: 1/24/2022 12:44:23 PM

An open house for Lionheart Classical Academy, the charter school that will be opening its doors in Peterborough in the fall, provided a sense of excitement for some parents hoping to enroll their children.

“It’s a no-brainer,” said Kristen Reida of Temple, whose daughter is going into fifth grade. At Temple Elementary School, she said the class sizes are smaller than at South Meadow School, which would be her daughter’s next school in the ConVal district.

“I think going to SMS would be a big culture shock for her,” Reida said. “I personally want the smaller classroom sizes.”

Reida previously considered Dublin Christian Academy, but the tuition was a factor – since Lionheart is a public charter school, it would be tuition-free.

This sense of choice was important to the founders of the school, according to Rick Merkt of Westmoreland, one of the founders and current board of trustees member. 

“It’s about another option,” he said. “Why not let parents, who know their children best, have a voice in how their children get educated?”

The idea for the school originated in January of last year, when the Monadnock Freedom to Learn Coalition was formed by Merkt and the other founders, including Board of Trustees Chair Barry Tanner, who is from Hancock.

Their charter received approval in November, and appointed trustees earlier this month. Along with Tanner and Merkt, trustees include Kim Lavallee of Mont Vernon, Leo Plante of Dublin and Jim Fricchione of Windham. Two more spots on the board are reserved for parent members, who will be chosen following the completion of student enrollment. The board chose the school’s principal, Elizabeth Wilber of Keene, and the executive director, Kerry Bedard of Hancock. 

The school will be located at 10 Sharon Road in Peterborough, a space that is in the process of being renovated in anticipation of opening in the fall.

“I really believe that there’s going to be a demand,” said Merkt. “I think there is a demand out there for people to have more choice.”

The school’s curriculum of “classical education” is based on that of Hillsdale College, a non-denominational Christian college in Hillsdale, Mich., with a heavy emphasis on liberal arts and science, according to Bedard. 

“It is going back to the way education was done for thousands of years,” she said. “It’s an education that frees us to be fully human.”

The key characteristics of the classical education include phonics and grammar instruction, what Bedard called a “content-rich and balanced” curriculum, and school culture of discipline and studiousness. Additionally, the curriculum will call for a “centrality of Western tradition” and “a rich and recurring examination of American traditions,” Bedard said. 

The school is approved in its curriculum for kindergarten through eighth grade, but will be opening in September 2022 for kindergarten through fifth grade only. It is approved for about 150 students for the first year, with a plan for eight classroom teachers. Plans are already in the works to expand in future years, grade-by-grade, until the school offers K to 12. 

A few parents came to the open house with their children already signed up for enrollment, like Marcy Menard, whose daughter would otherwise be attending Jaffrey-Rindge schools.

“When we started, it was a remote model, and it didn’t work,” Menard said. “So we’ve been homeschooling for the past two years.”

She said she has been hoping to get her daughter into school since then.

“But I didn’t like our only option,” she said, referring to Jaffrey-Rindge. “So I’m super excited about this.”

“It really seems perfect,” said Reida, who herself went to a charter school. “I like the curriculum, of going back to the classical. It’s important to me.”

Attending parents asked questions about logistical elements of opening the school, including transportation, which will only be provided for those living within the ConVal district. Similarly, the school will follow ConVal’s calendar and daily hours. 

Some parents expressed interest in Lionheart’s technology policy, which will be to separate technology from regular classroom work and require many assignments to be handwritten. Other questions surrounded the school’s policy surrounding state assessments, in which Lionheart will be required to participate as a state-funded public school.

Jon Caruana pointed out that the geography of serving the entire Monadnock Region might be difficult.

“It’s the reality of some of the ancillary things, like building that community,” he said. “If you live in Hancock and we live in Rindge, and now we want to go on a play date, are we driving an hour-and-a-half round trip?”

Caruana added that these issues wouldn’t stop him from considering the school.

“They’re not insurmountable things," he said. “But they’re things to think of.”

Trustees expressed their excitement at continuing to move toward their first year.

“This is the most-fulfilling thing I’ve had to do,” said Merkt. “This is far and away the most rewarding, and I can’t wait to see us open, I really can’t.”

“If a year from now, I can hear someone say, ‘That was the best choice I ever made, sending my child to Lionheart Classical Academy,’ that would be a victory for me,” said Tanner. 

As of now, Lionheart has about 120 prospective students signed up for enrollment. Enrollment is open until March 1, and the school will be holding a lottery on March 3 to determine which students will attend, drawing the lottery grade-by-grade. 

More parent information sessions will be held in coming weeks, including two Zoom sessions on Jan. 26 and Feb. 16 at 7 p.m., and in-person sessions on Feb. 5 and 26 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. For information, visit lionheartclassical.org. 


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