Boxberry School moves to Harrison/Waterford for ‘a huge fresh start’

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HARRISON — The Boxberry School is on the move to its new spacious home in the Lakes Region, where President of the Board of Directors Jim Gill said “the sky’s the limit” for the students and future of the school.

The Chickawah Theatre, a net neutral building with solar panels on its roof in Harrison and Waterford, will serve as the new home for the alternative Boxberry School beginning this fall.
The Chickawah Theatre, a net neutral building with solar panels on its roof in Harrison and Waterford, will serve as the new home for the alternative Boxberry School beginning this fall.

Beginning in the 2015-16 school year, the small private school will be housed in the Chickawah Theatre at Fernwood Cove, a girls camp situated on 220 acres on the north end of Island Pond in Harrison and Waterford. Gill, who co-owns the cove on Island Pond Road with his wife, Beigette, agreed to a six-year lease with Boxberry, at no cost to the school. The Gills donated the space to the school as their daughter and son will head into first grade and kindergarten, respectively, in the fall.

“There’s a lot more possibilities here and we’re not as limited, and it adds room for growth,” Gill said late last week. “It basically allows Boxberry to rethink its strategy of enrollment and really focus on a strategic business plan. It’s a huge fresh start.”

The Boxberry School — which is a private elementary school that began in 2003 by parents and grandparents looking for an alternative to public education — is currently located on Webber Brook Road in Oxford. One of the main reasons for the move is that the school leases its current space and there’s a lot of overhead, Gill said. Moving to the cove will save the school $27,000 in operating costs. The budget for the school is balanced without any fundraising money, which can be focused on field trips and/or other things the school needs, Gill said.

The theater at the cove, also known as “The Chick,” is a new building, erected in 2012 and used for only two months out of the year as a camp lodge. It occupies 10,000 square feet and is a net neutral building, with 20 kilowatts of solar panels on the roof. These and another set of panels near the pig pen on the hill provide roughly half of the electricity needed for a year at Fernwood Cove, Gill said. He described the classrooms space as a “daylight basement,” which is insulated and modern.

“It is an amazing facility that goes unused for most of the year,” Gill said.

The dance studio at the girls summer camp Fernwood Cove in Harrison and Waterford will soon be transformed into the classroom for the private elementary Boxberry School.
The dance studio at the girls summer camp Fernwood Cove in Harrison and Waterford will soon be transformed into the classroom for the private elementary Boxberry School.

Boxberry is a school that’s extremely outdoors, arts and technology oriented and focuses on hands on learning, he said. The cove’s surrounding lakes, woods, swamps and trails will have limitless uses. Also on site are arts, gymnastic and horse facilities, along with tennis courts, a softball field, docks, a ropes course and climbing wall that’s being added on to. There’s also chickens, pigs and a garden that not only can be used as educational tools, but provide food for students and campers alike.

The Boxberry School utilizes multi-age classrooms, where children in kindergarten through second grade and grades three through six are in classrooms together, learning together.

“The older kids help … the younger kids to read. They all have reading buddies,” Gill explained. “It’s very collaborative learning.”

Thus far for the upcoming school year, there are 10 students enrolled at Boxberry, where tuition is $8,500 a year. The school will start out with one full-time teacher, Kimmie Louton, a full-time teacher’s assistant and nearly a full-time administrator.

“(Louton’s) over the moon about the move and looking at the possibilities of this place,” Gill said.

Longtime teacher and fundraiser extraordinaire Jess Persons is moving on since her daughter will attend a different school next year, Gill said.

The goal for the upcoming school year is to have two classrooms of 10 students.

Pigs at Fernwood Cove in Harrison and Waterford will serve as an educational tool and food for the students at the Boxberry School, which will move to the girls camp free of charge beginning in the fall.
Pigs at Fernwood Cove in Harrison and Waterford will serve as an educational tool and food for the students at the Boxberry School, which will move to the girls camp free of charge beginning in the fall.

“The beautiful thing about here is was there interest enough, there’s more than two classrooms. … We can move on that, we’re not limited,” Gill said. “We’re open to possibilities. We’re really excited about this. It brings a whole aspect of giving back to the community.”

In addition to moving to the Lakes Region and tapping into a new market to hopefully increase enrollment, child care will be offered.

“We’re going to have before and after (school) care, which I think is huge for parents … because parents couldn’t work the logistics,” Gill said, noting the hours will run from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

For more information about the Boxberry School, visit www.boxberryschool.org/.

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