Screenagers – Parent Education

How does the digital age affect your child? How has it affected you and your relationship with your child?  Join us Thursday, March 16th at 6:00pm to find out how families can minimize the harmful effects of “screentime”, be better equipped to establish balance and find confidence in opening dialogue with your child.  This free event is open to the public and will be held at the Victorian House.  RSVP here:  Screenagers

Community Coffee

Community Coffee

November 18th, 2016

Megan shares the details of the recent land purchase:

Our “field of dreams” is now a reality.  The property has been a dream of Oak Farm from the very beginning.  Bernard Lash offered the land to us a few months ago and we were excited as the money was already set aside for this land purchase.  We are currently meeting with architects and looking at previous plans/ideas to determine how to best utilize the property.

We will also be adding on to the LE red barn in the near future to allow for LE1 to join the other classrooms.  The Green Farmhouse will be modified to become the Art and Music building for the Elementary programs.

We will be building a new UE building on the new parcel of land.  We are excited to be re-uniting the Elementary programs and also giving UE access to the woods once again!

Our eventual goal is to have the smaller entrances closed off during the day.  A new larger main entrance with a roundabout and some center interest (perhaps an Oak tree grove with different species?) is one of the proposals.  There would be “spokes” coming out of the roundabout that would allow access to all of the various campuses.

The current ditch/tile on the property will be smashed to re-hydrate the land and create a wetlands area.  This will allow for a new outdoor space and research/study component for the Elementary program.  The areas around the new building will be “naturalized” with native plantings. 

Of course there will be the monster of all sledding hills created for all to enjoy!

Along the Western edge of the field we will plant fir trees to block the view of the industrial area behind the property.

Our woods were originally only Oak Trees, but because we haven’t burned off new seedlings it is quickly becoming more of a Maple Woods.  A decision needs to be made about continuing as Oak Farm or Maple Farm!

We want to save a place on the land for a permaculture. This is a late 20th century idea of agriculture incorporating natural plantings to intentionally design a more edible and maintenance free environment.  (Nut and fruit trees, edible gardens, etc.)  The produce we would grow would not require the amount of watering, weeding, etc. that might normally be required.  This is only in the developing phase right now.

We could also possibly plant clover or some other ground cover to try to dissuade weeds and thistle overgrowth.  We don’t want to duplicate our efforts.

There will be space reserved for a future “Community” area – no grand idea yet, just large enough to accommodate our whole community.  Will not come to fruition for at least 5 years; just ideas at this point.

The new Upper Elementary building will take a full 12 months to construct with an anticipated 2018-2019 school year completion.  We will also have the retrofit of the current Upper building ready to house the new High School students at that time as well.

We will build rain gardens to help with roof run off and provide a research area for the older students.  We will not try to be L.E.E.D. (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified at this time; perhaps following up later with a Basic rating, but not Platinum.  They will be incorporating a lot of environmental considerations in the buildings and property.

We also plan on having a bicycle/walking path around the property.  We want to have a campus full of bike riders!

Rod Collier will be the architect for the projects.  He has worked with Lorene from the very beginning and knows/understands Lorene’s vision and passion for the school.

The new Upper building will have maybe a park lodge feel; but with a modern twist.  Not bulky and dark like a traditional log cabin, but it will blend in well with the woods.  The Upper building we have now is too nice; 10 year olds don’t appreciate the beauty of the building.  They should be able to be messy and have an easy way to clean up!  When it is renovated to accommodate the High School students we will be getting rid of the ‘round about’ feel it currently has.  Right now all of the classrooms are close but set apart.  It will still have a community area, but a plan to work with the intrinsic needs of the students, not against them.

The rooms will be in a straight line with gardens in the back for all the classrooms to utilize.  We will also need a science lab and area to clean up.  There will also be a room for music instruction and private lessons for reading, etc.  The ceilings will not be as high—accoustics have made it difficult.  All the large floor to ceiling windows did create a lot of light, but distracting to the students; loud acoustics and too hot.  The new building will feel more like the Red barn in set up and layout.

Additional Campus Projects:

We are getting alternate quotes on expanding the parking area for Lower Elementary.  We would like to use more “green” products.  We don’t wat to use asphalt again; either pavers or concrete.

There is not enough parking at the Vic House!  We will be adding new parking, utilizing a rain garden specialist and a site engineer for natural water run off swales to design it.  We will add 30 additional spots; 2 rows of parking.  It hasn’t been designed yet, but we are working on it.

Our hope is that these projects would have community days where the experts/professionals would come in on a Saturday and our community would come together to create the rain gardens and some of the other features.  Opportunities for learning are limitless!  This is definitely a long term goal.  The Primary and Lower Elementary would share a rain garden while the Upper Elementary students would have their own plan.

Greenhouse Update:  It will be up and ready to go.  John is going to fix it all in the end.  It will have some rain barrels and collection tools.  We will ultimately be solar powered!  The goal is that we will be able to water and power it completely without using any additional resources.

Access Road:  We are really worried about trucks using our roads as a pass-through.  Specifically the gravel road that goes from the UE to the Art Center.  If you see vehicles using that road, please let Lauren or Megan know right away.

Additional Acreage?  We have made an offer on a 10 acre plot next to the property; North of the UE towards Highway 8.  We have also made an offer on the 1 acre home along Highway 8.  At this time, both owners are asking too much money for the houses/land, but we think that we might be making progress.

Land/Building Updates:  Repairs/modifications to the ranch home we own would be about $130,000 to make it usable for the High School start up.  It would be cheaper to tear down and build new.  At the last finance meeting it was discussed and a question was posed about possibly tearing down that property and using the land as a main entrance to the campus from Highway 8.  If we are even considering this, perhaps we should look at building the High School business program somewhere else on campus.  At this point, we are considering moving the HS business program to the house on the 10 acre property we are pursuing.  Please note that the campus entrance from Highway 8 is NOT happening now, just thinking through it for the future.

We had received a grant from Dekko to buy the Lash land if it ever became available.  With funds on hand, some will be left over to buy other land.  We also have some bond money we have been saving that will be used to purchase the additional properties if a price can be negotiated.

The subsidy we received from Dekko to send students to the Montessori High School has not been utilized by any recent graduating students.  We would like to perhaps allocate that money to OUR High School program.  That way we don’t have to make a new request to raise money.  We already have a grant to do the prep work for the new property.

The High School renovation, roads and new building will be funded by the Dekko Foundation through a grant.  However, Megan would like the Oak Farm community to help pay for any extras: infrastructure, solar power, etc. and not depend solely on Dekko.

New High School:  The current Upper building rooms would be creatively divided to create office spaces and collaborative meeting/seminar spaces.  We would “bump out” the front and bring it closer to the parking lot.  The Great Hall would be expanded to include a lunch area.  The basement now is unfinished and not usable.  We would dig out the basement and make a “tunnel” to the parking lot.  The entrance would be a ramp “up” to the classrooms/building or take the ramp “down” to enter through the basement. If you went “down”, you would walk into this amazing area that would house STEAM.  It would be outfitted with laser cutters, CAD, 3-D printers, Sewing Machines, electronics, etc.—things the students can use to bring ideas to light.  The teachers can also use this space for innovation and experimentation!  We are working with the company 80/20 in Columbia City to design movable tables and whiteboards that can be integrated into the environment.  They are excited to partner with us!  They helped design the Makers Studio at Princeton!!!  We will focus on the creative expression needs of the students.  We are exploring/leaning towards the notion that they are addressing issues that are compelling to them and seeking ways to solve them.  Focusing on environmental impact and social impact issues will be the driving force.  The social issues do not have to be limited; could be solving a social issue for a child on another continent; the sky is the limit! Adolescent education has had a tunnel vision on most college campuses.  The focus is on completion; preparing students to be competitive in the market place—BUT this doesn’t address who we want this child to be!  WHY do we want to squash their ideas/dreams and say they aren’t successful until they have a diploma/degree in hand?  Let’s help them get the tools and knowledge they need to change the world!  Let them make it happen!! 

Please look over the High School curriculum hand out, it was lovingly created by Susan Dieli.  We are going to start accepting applications from outside of our current Oak Farm community.  We want to be cautious, but we need a good foundation.  We haven’t sought a commitment from current parents yet.  We project 5 students for year one, 15 students for year two, and 30 students for year three.  We will never accept seniors; the latest we would accept would be a Junior.  The High School students being on campus are really going to positively impact our school as a whole!  Our long term projections are that 50% of our students will want to stay while others will leave.  We will offer some extra-curricular activities to appeal to students, but we will not be able to offer everything.



Will you be offering Woodworking?

            We already have a Woodworking class offered at the Middle School.  It will be used more frequently with the High School students, but not necessarily enlarged.

Has solar power been pursued for any other areas other than just at the Middle School?

It needs to be intentional.  The Middle School and High School make more sense because the student can be part of the process and understand the purpose.

What does the teacher situation look like for the High School?

8 full time teachers, many part-time staff that would offer specific talents.  There will be 3 new teachers for next year definitely.  Full time/Lead teachers will be Montessori trained/accredited.  The part time staff would be comprised of people who know how to do cool things with their hands: fine arts, computers, etc.  The Administrative staff would be there to help with the overwhelming task of college applications and preparation.

How will the addition of the High School affect Jill in the kitchen?

            We are already planning on adding a part time person to help, but will still utilize parent volunteers.

How much will the tuition be for the High School?

            The High School cost will be comparable to the Middle School; about $7,500.  But, like the rest of our campus, it will cost the school about double that amount…$15 – 18,000 per student.

Pre-Order your Yearbook NOW!

Make sure your child has a permanent reminder of their school year with the Oak Farm Yearbook.  Students, sports, clubs and extra curricular activities have all been captured in this colorful compilation of the school year.  Order yours on-line today at .  Cost per yearbook is $22

Exciting news for Oak Farm’s future!

099Please read this letter from our Head of School, Megan O’Sullivan, sharing the realization of a long term dream for the school, the future of our students and the community at large.





Community Coffee – Recap

If you missed the last Community Coffee on August 27th, below are the key points Megan covered and some of the questions that were brought up by attending parents.

  • How did Oak Farm come to be?  Lorene Salsbery believed that the child is the person who determines who they are supposed to be!  This was a radical thought for most schools in the area and she sought to change that by providing opportunities for meaningful work…it is what still guides us today.  The school was originally started with Lorene’s own private money.  Her family’s philanthropic company, The Dekko Foundation, continues to financially support the school today.
    • Lorene’s Vision:
      • Choices for children
      • Choices for families
      • A school community about who you are; not what you have
      • Growing economic freedom through education
    • History of the School
      • Started in January 2000 with 13 students (Primary – Lower)
      • 2001:  Infant and Upper Elementary classrooms added
      • 2006:  Middle School added
      • 2017:  High School will be built
  • Oak Farm Highlights
    • $700,000 in tuition grants and discounts annually
    • Over 50% of Oak Farm students receive tuition grants
    • Full price tuition now is around $6,200 BUT the real cost per student is $12,500
    • Global literacy and peace education including Spanish and MMUN
    • Edible garden, Farm to Fork program for healthy lifestyles along with daily student participation in these programs.
    • S.T.E.A.M. Program:  Integrates science, math and artistic thinking
    • Eco-literacy and environmental education programs (Green Team) supported by our 64 acre campus.
    • Fine Arts Program that includes music, African drumming, theatre and workshop.
  • Enrollment Statistics:
    • Full capacity in Infant, Primary and Lower
    • Within 2 years of full capacity in Upper and MS
  • Portrait of the Oak Farm Graduate:
    • Life Long Learner
    • Emotional Literacy
    • Global Citizen
    • Leadership
  • Financial Overview (Specifics are available upon request)
    • NO debt
    • Positive cash flow
  • Volunteer Program (Nicole Lowe shared)
    • Volunteer support forms were provided at the beginning of the school year.  Please let Nicole know if you need an additional copy.
    • You can always contact Nicole if you have time to volunteer; she will find work for you!
    • W.W.W.  (Wacky Wild Wednesdays)  Will meet every other Wednesday in the Middle School to cut, laminate and work to help teachers in the classroom. A light breakfast will be offered.
    • Desperately need help for the kitchen working with Jill
    • Light the Night:  8th grade student, Emma Leedy, will be visiting classrooms to talk to students about this first Community Outreach.  Sign up on-line to walk or make donation
  • Questions brought up by parents in attendance at meeting:
    • Can you tell me if my 3 year old is too old for the Discovering Me class?
      • It depends on whether they have been in a Montessori class before as the material may be too easy/boring for an older child.  Please contact Lori Zacharias for further details or information on this program.
    • Everything I’ve heard discussed today sounds like the best environment for my children, but how can I become a better parent?
      • (Many suggestions were made by various parents and all agreed that it is a work in progress; no one has it figured out and we all make mistakes!)
      • Positive Discipline Class
      • Ask the teachers for help
      • Check out the school library for books, magazines and periodicals
      • Talk to other parents
      • Observations through the windows (Vic House)
    • What is S.T.E.A.M.?
      • It was originally started as S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering and math)  Now many schools, including Oak Farm, have added the artistic component.  It has changed from an academic discipline to a more artistic school of thought.
      • Heather Miller, our Art Teacher, will be working with staff this year to introduce teachers to this way of thinking when they are setting up their classroom activities.
    • What is the Maker’s Room and how old are the students who get to use it?
      • This currently is only offered to 7th and 8th graders at the Middle School.  It offers them a variety of materials in an unstructured, creative environment.