Waldorf School of the Peninsula has two big reasons to celebrate this month—the graduation of its first high school class and the brand new space it just scored in Mountain View.
“It’s a very exciting time for us,” said Lucy Valentine Wurtz, development director for the school.
Recently located at Church in Mountain View announced it would move to Palo Alto. That opened up a space for the Waldorf School, which snatched it right up.
“We’ve been looking for a site for a very long time and it’s really difficult for private schools due to zoning and also affordability,” said Wurtz. “We’ve been looking for three years and we were recently alerted that the St. Athanasius site was coming up, so we jumped on it right away.”
Waldorf, a private school for preschool through 12th grades, opened campuses in the Bay Area in the 1980s starting with , and less than five years ago opened in Cupertino. This month, Waldorf graduated its first high school senior class of students.
Wurtz explained space had been the biggest challenge for Waldorf School in the Bay Area for some time. In Cupertino, where Waldorf’s high school has been located until now, zoning laws have limited high school enrollment to no more than 50 students.
When the high school opened there nearly five years ago, Wurtz said, they had hoped to only be there temporarily. But, since they were unable to find a new space, they have been forced to remain there for nearly five years.
“We’re bursting at the seams over there right now,” said Wurtz. “That space is just much too small for us.”
Therefore, all the high school grades will move to the new Mountain View campus, as well as grades six, seven and eight from the . The will close completely and the Los Altos campus will continue to offer nursery school through fifth grade.
Wurtz said space, zoning laws and use permits have been a challenge at the Los Altos campus as well. The school has long wanted to expand its early childhood programs and to welcome more students, but has been unable with such limited space and city regulations.
“We’ve had a lot more demand than we could accommodate for the past five years,” Wurtz said, who added that in Los Altos their permit allowed them no more than 250 students. “So, with our new space in Mountain View, we’ll finally be able to add more students to our early childhood program, which is great. People really love our kindergarten program.”
Wurtz said, the new campus in Mountain View is exactly what Waldorf needs.
"We’re really happy, because the new school site is over 15,000 square feet," she said. "It's got really large classrooms with really good, natural light, playing fields, outdoor gathering space, and space for a community garden, which is something we’re really excited about."
The high school’s move from Cupertino to Mountain View means a longer commute for many Bay Area families, including Lindsay Wasserman’s son, Elijah, who just finished the 11th grade at Waldorf and has attended the school since the first grade. Lindsay’s younger son started at Waldorf in preschool and just finished the eighth grade.
Elijah and his family live in Boulder Creek.
“It affects us, because it used to be one hour to get there, now it will be one hour and 20 minutes,” Wasserman said. “But, we’re committed to getting our son to this school.”
Wasserman said Elijah loves the school so much, that they have decided not to let the longer commute to Mountain View deter them.
“He was really the driving force for us staying at that school. He is adamant about staying in the education system he loves,” she said. “He loves Waldorf, so he’s committed to getting up before 6 a.m. every morning to get to school on time.”
Marianne Vernacchia said her daughter, who will be a junior at Waldorf’s high school in the fall, feels much the same about her school. Vernacchia said her daughter’s attitude toward school changed dramatically, for the better, once she transferred to Waldorf three-quarters of the way through her freshman year.
“At her old school, she was more and more sort of moving away from who she used to be and her roots and her true self,” Vernacchia said. “She used to be into nature and exploring and learning, and she was starting not to care about any of that anymore. She wasn’t doing as well in school and wasn’t caring about school and wasn’t engaged in her learning anymore.”
The Vernacchia family shadowed classes one day at Waldorf and liked what they saw.
“She used to not like going to school, where she was at before. She wasn’t into it and didn’t enjoy going,” Vernacchia said. “Now, we get no complaints. [At Waldorf], they just teach in a way that really engages the kids and gets them involved in the learning process. It’s wonderful to see.”
Vernacchia said, since her family lives in San Jose, the move from Cupertino to Mountain View will be a longer commute for them as well, so their daughter may end up joining some other south bay students she knows and taking Caltrain to school.
“It is a longer trek and the morning traffic going in that direction is awful,” she explained.
Vernacchia said her daughter has been taking Caltrain more and more lately, to various places she wants to go, so she’s been getting used to it.
“She really likes it, and it’s actually giving her independence and confidence about herself and her world,” Vernacchia added. “It used to make me nervous, but the more I see her do it, the more I am open to it. Plus, it will save our family some gas and mileage.”
Vernacchia said, no matter what, they won’t let the longer commute get in the way of their daughter’s education at Waldorf, either.
“It’s worth it to travel to that school.”
For more information, visit www.waldorfpeninsula.org.