This small visionary group of parents and teachers, inspired and nurtured by their experience at Apple Garden (a Waldorf program for preschool and kindergarten-aged children), formed the Napa Valley Waldorf School Initiative Group. This group hosted outreach and educational events for the community, connected with Waldorf educators and pioneers, and fundraised for the task ahead. They initiated the process of founding the school by working with Twin Ridges Elementary School District located in Nevada County, California. (Twin Ridges was committed to and experienced in the creation of Waldorf-inspired charter schools.) With technical assistance from Twin Ridges, the founding members applied for and received a “planning” grant from the State of California. This grant provided funds to assess community interest in developing a Waldorf-inspired school in Napa County and to develop the school charter. In 1998, a charter for the Napa Valley Charter School was granted by the State of California, with Twin Ridges Elementary School District acting as sponsor.
After completing these steps, the Napa Valley Waldorf School Initiative Group refocused its mission and became the Napa Valley Waldorf Education Foundation (NVWEF), which played a major role in raising the initial funds for the school. This Foundation’s purpose was to support all types of Waldorf programs and promote community awareness and education in order to expand the understanding of Waldorf principles and enable this method of education to flourish in the Napa Valley. The Foundation transferred the specific activity of creating the school to the newly formed Development Group, and together they wrote a vision and mission for the school. This groundwork enabled the Development Group to apply for an “implementation” grant from the State of California, and implementation grant funding was awarded in 2000.
At this point, the process of hiring staff, purchasing equipment and supplies, and searching for a site began in earnest, with the goal of opening the school by the fall of 2000. The Development Group hired a consultant with experience in starting public Waldorf-inspired charter schools, and that consultant provided an organizational framework on which to build a functional school. The Development Group divided the tasks into committees and invited interested families to join in the work, resulting in a “small army” of pioneers who worked to develop different aspects of the school. During the spring of 2000, many people – known as the Founding Families – worked countless hours and grappled with numerous difficult challenges and obstacles (including finding an appropriate site). Undaunted, they worked together to reach compromises and find solutions in a very complex and collaborative process.
As a result, the Napa Valley Charter School opened in the Fall of 2000 at Napa Valley Expo, with students in grades K-4 and a plan to grow one grade a year until reaching eight grades. Originally housed in temporary white event tents, all of the classes were relocated to Merlot Hall and portable buildings in January of 2001. The first few years were filled with the normal challenges of a new organization as many parts of the school were still developing, but gradually the organization gained stability along with a positive reputation in the community. In 2003, the Walton Foundation invited NVCS to apply for a $150,000 grant. Once awarded, this grant supported teacher training and enrichment, purchased materials and furnishings, funded our initial science program and subsidized several years of outdoor education.
In 2004, in response to a change in California charter law requiring charter schools to be authorized by the district in which their students reside, the school embarked on a year-long process to update the charter and apply to the Napa Valley Unified School District (NVUSD) for local authorization. During this process the school community, including students in grades four through seven (our lead class at the time), voted on a new name for the school; and henceforth the school has been known as Stone Bridge School. The name is based on the fact that the Napa Valley was historically known for its abundance of unique stone bridges, and the symbol of “a bridge” represents the passage of students from early childhood over to the years beyond elementary education. In addition, it symbolizes the connections within our school between teachers, parents, and the administration as well as a bridge to the larger Napa Valley community.
Over the summer of 2007, Stone Bridge School moved to a new home on Salvador Avenue, sharing a NVUSD campus with Salvador Elementary School. Over the summer of 2011, Stone Bridge School moved to another site on Carneros Avenue, taking over the 10-acre location of the closed Carneros Elementary School. Throughout its years at the Carneros campus, SBS continued to thrive and grow, and fulfilled its original dream of creating and maintaining a certified organic farm using biodynamic practices.
Stone Bridge School moved to 2nd Avenue in the summer of 2021 and created a new home at the old location of Mt. George Elementary School. With a solid foundation set in its twenty plus years of operation, SBS continues to offer a unique and valuable educational choice for the children of Napa Valley.
The history of Stone Bridge School is one full of adventure, faith, and determination. The school’s development has been a serial labor of love, nurtured by parents, teachers, organizations, and other schools. The heart of Stone Bridge School lies in its commitment to its students, and in its rich and ongoing history of dedication, participation, and involvement from all of its stakeholders. The result is a unique public charter school that provides a wonderful public Waldorf educational experience for the children and parents of the Napa Valley and beyond.