New school finds home in heart of historic Port Townsend

PORT TOWNSEND — A new private school that plans to be an integral part of the community has found a home exactly where its founders want it to be — in the downtown historic district.

“It’s historic, and it’s in the heart of town,” Julie Marston said.

“It’s the true center of the community, which is where our young people need to be.”

Marston is one of the founders of Jefferson Community School, for grades 6 through 12 that will open in the fall.

Within four applications of their target enrollment of 24, the school founders are leasing the second floor of the Good Templars Building at Quincy and Washington streets for a home base.

As a small private school that plans to use the community as a resource, the location is ideal, headmaster Robbie Roberts said.

“We can walk to the library, and the gym is around the corner,” Roberts said. “We really are in a special place.”

Accessible by wide stairs, the 1,800-square-foot space, divided into one large room and three small ones, is also perfect, he said.

The main room, with a high ceiling and windows overlooking Memorial Field, is large enough to be used as a gathering place and work area, Roberts said.

Small classrooms

The small classrooms will be used for individual or small-group instruction, he said.

Floor-to-ceiling storage cubes cover the wall next to a large reception desk.

“When we walked in, we knew this was it,” Marston said.

Katherine Mitchell and Scott Landes own the Good Templars Hall, a wood-frame building that is one of the oldest buildings in town.

Extensively upgraded in 1995, it is now leased to businesses on the courtyard and ground floors, the upper floor formerly rented to an organization called Moms on Line, Marston said.

City officials have approved the school’s plan to use the building for a school, Roberts said, filling a void left when Peninsula College relocated to Fort Worden State Park.

“This was a great opportunity to bring young people downtown,” said John McDough of the city planning department.

“The infrastructure is there, and from a land use standpoint, it was very simple.”

Multi-age groups

Roberts, Marston and Crystie Kisler will teach at the school, which will focus on academics in small, multi-age groups, weekly seminars, field trips and community service.

Roberts and Kisler also teach night classes at Peninsula College and will continue that affiliation, Roberts said, which will be another plus for the Jefferson Community School students.

“It is our hope that we can work in conjunction with the college,” Roberts said.

“They can provide advanced courses for our students. It’s a natural fit, an easy transition, to get what they need educationally as maintaining their JCS community.”

Inspired by other schools

Originally called Jefferson Academy, the school was the idea of parents of students graduating from Swan School wanting a choice for middle and high school.

The school is also drawing applicants from St. Paul’s Academy, a small school Marston runs uptown, and ORCA, another private school.

Marston said she also received a query from a family in North Carolina who saw the school’s Web site, and is talking with family members in Port Angeles who are considering moving to Port Townsend so that their child can attend the school.

That innovative schools can attract families with children to Port Townsend is a message Roberts said he hopes the community hears.

“It’s an opportunity to be a catalyst for change in education,” he said of the new school.

Jefferson Community School is still accepting applications, Marston said.

Annual tuition is $6,000, payable at $500 a month, with some financial aid available.

Jefferson Community School has applied for nonprofit status, McRae said.

For more information, go to www.jeffersoncommunityschool.com or call Eric McRae, 360-379-0969.

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