NORTH HAVEN — Slate School is gaining momentum, attracting about 100 people to an information session last week.
The event, held at the North Haven Memorial Library on Saturday, allowed potential parents and school supporters to meet the people behind the independent, nonprofit elementary school, to be located at 124 Mansfield Road.
School owners expect to build the 6,000-square-foot school and open its doors by the fall. The 25-acre parcel of land sold for $3 million in November 2017.
Jennifer Clark, school founder, said the school’s philosophy is hands-on, cross-curricular and nature-based. She said she was inspired to create a brand new school while searching for a place for her two young children. Clark and her family live in North Haven, half a mile from the school site.
“We identified that there was this need for school like this,” Clark said.
The outdoor learning component brings learning that traditionally takes place indoors to the outside, she said, with no specific division. The building will be environmentally friendly, striving for LEED certification, and free of volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde, lead and other toxins.
“We were very attentive to material selection for construction,” she said, “and the materials for children to be playing with,” such as natural wood for furniture and toys, beeswax crayons and fruit-based dyes in art supplies.
The school will begin with students in kindergarten through second grade. The school hopes to expand up to sixth grade.
The faculty already hired are North Haven residents. Julie Mountcastle, Slate’s head teacher, is a veteran educator and was a senior member of the Integrated Day Program at Ridge Road Elementary School. Grace Kenney, assistant teacher, grew up in North Haven and worked as a teacher with the Connecticut Audubon Society, developing outdoor science programs.
As a private school, Slate is able to select students through a personalized admissions process and isn’t bound by North Haven’s borders.
Tuition is $21,000, with scholarships and financial aid guaranteed for families with a gross income of less than $175,000. A student from a family making less than $50,000 could receive aid that completely covers tuition, or aid that will cover up to $6,000.
North Haven’s median household income, according to the latest U.S. Census data, is $94,000. A student would be guaranteed $9,000 to $12,000 in aid, according to Slate’s website.
Clark didn’t divulge much information—to the Citizen or at the information session— on the source of schools’ charitable contributions, which will subsidize tuition. Clark said the funds will come from “a variety of anonymous donors.”
Slate School received approval in November from the Planning and Zoning Commission, despite arguments from a group of neighboring property owners regarding the safety of Mansfield Road and overall impact on the residential neighborhood.
The commission approved the school’s site plan and special permit with conditions that include a cap of 70 students, a conservation easement, maintained sight lines along Mansfield Road, installation of school zone traffic signs at either end of the property and a provision for a new traffic study submitted to the commission for evaluation after two years.
Commission members said in November that there will be changes in traffic regardless of what goes into the site.