County board’s taste turns to Waldorf

The rejected-but-not-dejected Blue Oak Charter School has finally found a home in Chico.

The Board of Trustees of the Butte County Office of Education, which will offer some administrative oversight for the charter, voted 7-0 on July 9 to approve the formation of a school based on the Waldorf method of teaching.

“It is a validation,” said Mary Wanzer, who led the effort and will serve as the Blue Oak Charter School’s interim director. “We have children, we have teachers, so it looks like it’s a go.”

The group, after encouraging work with Chico Unified School District staff and a charter committee, was denied by a 4-1 vote of the Board of Trustees in February.

The Chico board, worried about later-tossed lawsuits in which an anti-public Waldorf group had challenged school districts they felt had allowed sectarian education due to the method’s origins with the anthroposophist Rudolf Steiner. Members of People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools showed up to lobby the Chico board, but did not do so with BCOE.

BCOE Trustee Pat Matthews Spear, herself a retired director of elementary education from the CUSD, said those issues barely came up at their meeting. “We could find no reason why we couldn’t have them as a charter school,” said Spear, who was intrigued by parents’ dedication and the school’s focus on the arts. “We didn’t consider it a religious school and thus in conflict with the separation of church and state.”

Wanzer said the school has scaled back its first class to just kindergarteners, which will include her twin boys, and will open this fall in rented space at the Unitarian Fellowship on Filbert Avenue.