Unique Schools: Alternative to public school in Floyd County

People are accepted here. They can be who they are without judgement.

FLOYD CO, Va. – Public school isn’t for everyone. That’s the idea behind a small school off a gravel road in Floyd County. They’re taking a new spin on the traditional model. They admit it’s not for everyone.

People are accepted here. They can be who they are without judgment.

“In public school, being different means you get bullied,” said Felix Byler, who is in 10th grade.

The school day at Springhouse Community School starts with singing. All 22 students and their teachers are together.

For Byler, that community makes it special.

“It’s probably the best school I’ve ever been to, having experienced the horrors of public school for 4 years. I’m a lot happier here, I’m a lot more comfortable,” said Byler.

“It’s very bold, scary and exciting,” said Jenny Finn who co-founded the school, and says they put relationships first. “We put connection first. Whether that’s connection to yourself, connection to each other or connection to the Earth, that’s our very first value. We really feel like without that the rest of it kind of isn’t as rich as it could be.”

Inside the classroom, they don’t just talk about one subject. They combine skills.

Last year, they built a 22-foot boat and sailed it on the Chesapeake Bay. It taught them math and physics skills, while they read nautical literature.

“I think they want to be inspired in their learning. I think they want to spend their days maybe not loving but definitely liking what they’re doing. I think that’s what really brings them here,” said Finn.

Outside these walls, students do internships in the community once a week learning new skills.

“We learn by doing things rather than sitting down in a classroom and getting told things that were going to have to know on a test. We don’t do tests, we don’t do grades, we have competencies. It’s really different,” explained Byler.

Finn says it’s a unique education with one goal: “To graduate young people who are able to think critically, who have empathy for other people, who have a sense of resiliency and care for themselves and the world around them.”

Seven students have graduated over the last six years going on to service work like AmeriCorps, college or a job. They want graduates to be life long learners and maintain curiosity wherever they are.

To learn more about Springhouse Community School visit their website.

About the Author:

You can see Jenna weekday mornings at the anchor desk on WSLS 10 Today from 5-7 a.m. She also leads our monthly Solutionaries Series, where we highlight the creative thinkers and doers working to make the world a better place.