by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Merit Academy of Woodland Park, Colorado, opened on Aug. 23 in a buoyant ceremony featuring American flags and a teenage rider riding a dun horse while waving the school flag.
The new public school went from idea to reality in just one year, opening K-8 with plans to grow into high school. As a classical school, it offers a low-screen, high-relationship environment and a focus on creative and critical thinking through careful attention to classic works and traditional approaches to math and science. These are things parents wanted that weren’t available through the Woodland Park School District, which like many in the nation has become computer-centered over the last several years.
“Our mentors said, ‘You’re crazy, you can’t get this done in a year.’ We said, ‘Oh yeah, watch us,’” said Merit Academy founding board member John Dill, a retired Air Force Space Command lieutenant colonel who now works as a U.S. military contractor. …
… The online platform WPSD schools use, called Summit, is also politically controversial. It is funded by leftist billionaires Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates and has been dogged with privacy, politicization, and screen-time concerns from parents nationwide. Keeping politics out of school is also important to many families who have chosen Merit.
“Elsewhere there is a lot of politics and the deciding of the classes and the curriculum,” said board president Nicole Waggoner, the rock-climbing entrepreneur. “People up here are sick of that. You have a community with a certain set of values that don’t feel like their values are being represented in their kids’ educational choices.”
Pekron called herself “a parent who prefers that education is not political, of any kind” and said that personal commitment is one of the reasons she supports the school.