by Cassi Clausen, Open School founder
August 9, 2019
The Open School began as a dream of a handful of people committed to bringing democratic free education to Orange County. We wanted a place for local kids to become self-directed and independent. It started with just under a dozen kids in the house of one of our founders. The following year, we moved to a rented campus and added a Board of Directors. This was the year of figuring out what the board should be doing, supporting the school without overstepping the democratic rule of the School Meeting.
It became clear after a couple of years that we wanted more. Having one school that advocates for students’ rights is wonderful. Growing that school to 100 or 150 students is a fabulous goal. But what about changing the perceptions of the establishment? What about making Sudbury schools a household name? What about shifting parents’ understanding that their kids’ autonomy is essential in schooling? That is much harder to achieve when the goal is one school in Central Orange County that grows 10-15% each year.
So we adjusted our vision. Now, in addition to growing our inaugural campus in Orange County, we have created a structure to support new campuses around the Southland. Using a cellular division model, where new campuses are created from staff and board members at existing schools, we envision establishing a network of Open Schools. All families in Southern California should have the option of a democratic free school for their children. And when schools like ours become more accessible and common, the assumptions of the public will shift to consider self-directed education as a viable possibility.All families in Southern California should have the option of a democratic free school for their children. Click To Tweet
The first fruits of this vision are ripening this year. The Open School will now be serving south Riverside County with a campus in Lake Elsinore, enrolling students now for September 2019. This school has already received a warm reception from families in that area, with a robust enrollment and Board of Directors. We are witnessing a change in what parents want for their child’s education, and The Open School will be reaching more areas in the coming years to support that change.