Village School marks 20th year 

  • These young students seem oblivious to the adults milling around during Saturday’s open house at the Village School in Royalston. ATHOL DAILY NEWS/GREG VINE

  • Former Village School student Violet Malley of Winchendon, left, speaks with former science teacher Cathy Szal, a resident of Phillipston. Malley now attends Sizer School, a charter school, in Fitchburg. ATHOL DAILY NEWS/GREG VINE

For Athol Daily News
Published: 2/11/2020 9:04:03 PM

ROYALSTON – The Village School, currently in the midst of its 30th academic year, held an open house Saturday to let parents see what their young students have accomplished and entice other adults into enrolling their youngsters in the independent school, which serves children in preschool through grade 6.

The school first opened its doors in 1989 in South Athol under the auspices of the newly formed Millers River Educational Cooperative. In 1996 it moved to Orange and, two years later, found its way to Royalston. Until last year, the Village School occupied the former Raymond School building off Royalston Common. As the years went on, however, it became increasingly obvious the Raymond building — constructed by the Depression-era Works Progress Administration in 1939 — wasn’t meeting the needs of the school.

In 2018, the Village School opened a new $1.5 million facility on South Royalston Road/Route 68. It is constructed on property purchased from Camp Caravan.

“We had plans to start fundraising for a new school as far back as 2007,” said Director Rise Richardson. “But in 2008 the market crashed and we lost donors and we lost enrollment. But we didn’t give up. In 2015, we took another look at our plans and decided, well, we’ll do what we can do.

“We were able to work out a $1 million loan with Athol Savings Bank. They really worked with us; they saw how important this was. But we had to prove we had donors. It may sound counterintuitive, but you have to have money in order to get a loan.”

Construction on the new school began in 2017. Richardson said the school worked closely with local individuals and businesses to make the new facility a reality. In additon to working with Athol Savings Bank, the contractor for the new school was R.J. Shaw Contracting of Phillipston, and much of the lumber was supplied by Hamshaw Lumber of Orange.

Richardson said enrollment for the current year stands at around 65 students, with 70 or more expected next year. The preschool and kindergarten classes are full, she said.

“I prefer to call this an independent school, as opposed to a private school,” she said. “The term ‘private school’ gives the impression that a school is for rich families only, but that’s not the case here. We have families from all over the region sending their children here.”

Richardson said tuition is currently $10,500 per year. She explained that financial aid is available.

Operation of the school is based upon the principals of English philosopher, scientist, and educator John G. Bennett, first developed in the 1960s. Other influences include Maria Montessori, Elizabeth Bennett, and A.L. Stavely.

Anyone interested in the school can call (978) 249-3505 or go villageschoolma.org for more information.

Greg Vine may be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com

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