The dream of a small group of active parents seeking educational reform came to fruition in August 1996 when four…More years of work resulted in the opening of the Novato Charter School. It is a cluster of portable classrooms near the corner of Main Gate Road and C Street a few hundred yards east of Hamilton Meadow Park School.
The school, with kindergartners through eighth graders, uses Waldorf-based curriculum to encourage abstract and critical thinking. Foreign language instruction starts in the first grade, and multicultural content is incorporated often. An emphasis on nature helps promote respect for the environment and humankind, according to the school's website. The school became the first in Marin County to get all its power from a solar power system in November 2008, and the organic garden is central to the kids' learning experiences.
Parent involvement is also a key part of the school's design. It includes a close relationship with the teachers and a strong parent education program. There is an active effort to limit children's exposure to commercial media images. The idea is that a reduction or elimination to electronic media encourages cooperative rather than competitive learning.
All children are eligible for enrollment at the Novato Charter School. Parents must make an appointment and attend a tour of the campus in order to fill out an application and sign a parent participation agreement. Since there are regularly more applicants than spaces available, a lottery is held to fill the spots.
Fundraising is a constant challenge for the Novato Charter School because it does not receive parcel tax dollars or proceeds from school bonds. Thus it is one of the lowest funded schools in Marin County, in a State that already ranks 46th nationwide in per-pupil spending. Almost half its funding comes from pledges through the nonprofit Novato Charter School Foundation.
Novato Charter's API index for the 2009-2010 academic year was 892, second among elementary schools the district behind Rancho's 947. The state has set 800 as the score schools should strive to meet.
As of the 2009-2010 school year, the ethnic breakdown of the student body included 83.3 percent whites, 4.5 percent Hispanics, 4.5 percent Asian Americans and 2.9 percent African Americans. Only four out of 246 students in 2009-2010 were considered English language learners.