BY ABIGAIL CURTIS
FOR THE MIDCOAST BEACON
ROCKPORT — Eighth-grader Emma Moesswilde of Belfast stood in the middle of a classroom buzzed with activity as she and her Ashwood Waldorf schoolmates readied dazzling costumes to wear in the Harvest Fair.
For the 24-year-old school, all that creativity is par for the course — but there was something unusual about the scene: its setting.
On Sept. 14, Emma and other grade-schoolers began their academic year in an airy, brand-new building that boasts ample sunshine, roomy classrooms and even lockers.
“I love it,” she said. “It’s amazing. We were in trailers before — this is such an improvement. It’s so light and open, and I just love the space.”
She’s not the only one to gush a little when asked an opinion about the new building.
Maria Northcott, the school’s enrollment and marketing director, said that she even teared up a little the first time she saw the almost-finished building in late summer.
“We’re all a little bit in love with the building,” Northcott said.
The community is invited to the school’s grand opening celebration at 8:45 a.m. Friday, Oct. 16.
Local officials and others will join the students for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a building tour, she said.
“It’s a milestone,” Northcott said.
The school moved into its spacious, 32-acre campus off Park Street in 1995, when the grade school students were housed in modular classrooms.
“It’s always been the vision of the school to have a permanent grade school building,” Northcott said.
Thus, the Room To Grow capital campaign to pay for a 14,000-square-foot building began in June 2008.
In December, the nonprofit private school organization secured a $250,000 grant from the Fran and Warren Ruff Foundation.
Northcott said that the capital campaign has raised just under $600,000, or 80 percent of its goal of $750,000.
“Our intention is to raise every bit of the money,” said school director Jody Spanglet.
School officials do not want to raise tuition to pay for the school.
Tuition for first- through eighth-graders is now set at about $9,000 per year, with tuition assistance available, Northcott said.
The school serves 117 children ranging in age from 18 months to eighth grade.
They follow the basic Waldorf philosophy which is a “holistic” approach to education, Northcott said.
The curriculum integrates music, art and handwork into students’ academic work, with a focus on the children’s developmental strengths and needs.
“It’s not purely an academic curriculum,” Northcott said.
On a tour of the building, she proudly pointed out details, such as the sunlight which floods the garden — or basement-level classrooms — and the burnished hardwood floors made from ash trees that were felled and planed on site.
“To see [the building] blossom into a physical structure that was the best structure we could have made for these students — it’s emotional, and pretty incredible,” Northcott said.
One unusual — if not incredible — aspect of the school’s construction was its speed.
Workers from Vision Builders of Rockport started clearing ground in April and, despite getting two weeks behind during the record-breaking June rains, they finished it nearly on schedule.
Rockport architect and school parent Eric Beckstrom designed the building.
Elisa Olds, who has a daughter in the third grade, she said she was thrilled with the new school. But for her, the Waldorf spirit transcends buildings.
“The space is beautiful,” Olds said. “But it’s the teachers and the children who really make the rooms beautiful.”
For more information about the school, visit the Web site at www.ashwoodwaldorf.org or call 236-8021.