SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Parents from a private school in Santa Fe are scrambling to find a new school for their kids, after learning that the Santa Fe Waldorf School will be closing.
The clock is ticking for parents like Jeff. He needs to find a new school to send their kids to this fall. Jeff’s son was ready to start kindergarten at the Santa Fe Waldorf School in just two weeks but at the last minute, he learned the school is not opening this year.
“So yeah it was really upsetting news that we found out at the 11th hour and we were kinda forced to sit on our hands the whole weekend and it was really upsetting and heartbreaking,” said Jeff.
Parents got an email from Santa Fe Waldorf School Board of Trustees saying “Due to unexpectedly low enrollment and because tuition is their main revenue source they will not open for the 2023-2024 school year.
On top of that, Jeff said he’s still waiting for a refund on their tuition. “It just contained a lot of information about how they don’t have money for this school to continue because they can’t meet payroll and they offered no recommendations or help for other schools that are enrolling at the time,” said Jeff. “We only paid for a month and we were out $2,500.”
We did reach out to the school to ask why they closed. They said there were a few reasons, like post-COVID inflation and the competition of new local charter schools.
Santa Fe Waldorf School Statement:
August 7, 2023
There is something about a Waldorf School that is a natural fit for Santa Fe: a semi-wild campus with a biodynamic garden; an artistic, musical, and classically academic curriculum; a capable, smart, diverse student body; and a core of dedicated faculty, trained in the Rudolf Steiner principles of child development.
On the cusp of its fortieth anniversary, this small private, Pre-K through 12th grade school, located on 13 acres, at the crossroads of Rabbit Road and Old Pecos Trail, finds itself closing its doors.
A relentless march of economic factors threw the school into a tailspin, and these were considered and weighed in the Board of Trustees’ difficult and heart-wrenching decision. The contributing factors ranged from the pandemic, and subsequent post-Covid inflation, the competition of new local charter schools, changing personnel – and optimism in the early part of the summer that enrollment would rise to its normal, healthy numbers to sustain the school for the upcoming year.
Micky Leach, President of the Board of Trustees, explained, “It is such a terrible shock to have had to make this decision. As is the case with most private schools, we are dependent on tuition and we have no endowment. To address the low enrollment numbers we began with measures such as reducing staff, combining classes, and other budget cuts. But as enrollment continued to decline over the summer, it was clear that those measures were not enough to sustain operations. We are painfully aware that closing so close to the school year is distressing. But we couldn’t, in good conscience, begin the school year knowing that we could not pay our employees. This decision is devastating to the faculty, our families and our students, especially those who moved to Santa Fe specifically for a Waldorf education.”
The ripple of shock and sadness has been felt throughout the rings of the Waldorf community from students and parents to teachers, administration and alumni. The Board of Trustees is continuing to meet frequently to wind down operations, support students in this transition, and to support faculty as they figure out their next steps.
Fletcher Lathrop, the school’s woodworking teacher and a founding faculty member from the school’s inception in 1983, added, “This is a watershed moment. What we’ve done is build a Waldorf foundation for a core of amazing students and a wonderful community of faculty and parents.” Fletcher is one of two faculty members on the Board of Trustees. He is beloved by students and colleagues.
One hallmark of a SFWS student is that they look you in the eye when talking; they listen. They are engaged and open minded and creative and resourceful – with a solid foundation in world history and culture. They are taught in a way to foster confidence, intuition, and consciousness. Enlivening the mind, as well as the will, compassion, and imagination by using movement, art, and academics, is the cornerstone to Waldorf education.
Santa Fe Waldorf School alumni have attended Stanford, Wesleyan, Middlebury, Rhode Island School of Design, Berkeley School of Music, among other centers of higher learning. Our Waldorf graduates have gone on to obtain master’s degrees and PhD’s; some have gone into astrophysics, engineering, medicine, law, finance, public administration, library science, and culinary, performing, and fine arts. Some live and work overseas. Some have returned to Santa Fe to local jobs, even to work at the Waldorf School.
Laura Hitt said, “As an alum and Board member, I am deeply saddened that our school won’t be able to educate children this year. The Santa Fe Waldorf School was a formative part of my life and continues to be close to my heart. I remain optimistic about a future iteration of a Waldorf school in our town.”
The Board of Trustees is currently working a plan to refund parents for their deposits and tuition payments.
The Board of Trustees sent the following message to parents in an email on Aug. 11:
“Dear Parents and Guardians:
At the time, the Waldorf School does not have enough money to satisfy all outstanding obligations, including prepaid tuition and fees. The School remains committed to paying everyone back.
We are exploring all avenues toward that end.
One possibility is that someone makes the School a loan of $700,000. This would allow the School to pay its obligations while pursuing the sale of the campus at fair market value.
That scenario also provides a path to creating a generous endowment for a new Waldorf initiative in Santa Fe.
We will be back in tough with you when there is an update.
SFWS Board of Trustees”