A local charter school is moving into its new location just in time for the beginning of the school year. Pathfinder Academy will open the doors of its Monticello-inspired campus on Aug. 5, and will serve kindergarten through eighth grade with a classical-focused curriculum that teaches students in a style more akin to home schooling than the classroom style of public schools.
In the late 1990s, Susan Stradling, principal of Pathfinder Academy, joined with Sequoia Charter Schools, now called Edkey, to infuse her private, in-home school, where she educated her 10 children as well as others, with the support charter schools in Arizona receive. This allowed her to expand her scope and bring the quality of education she gave her children to others.
Stradling’s school is consistently rated “A”-plus and students excel in testing. She credits this to her focus on the basics but says that her curriculum goes the extra mile to round out each student’s experience. In-depth study of Greek and Latin roots, recitation for building memory, and a phonetic reading curriculum combine to instill basic knowledge on a deeper level than might otherwise be accomplished.
“It’s a back to basics, if you want to call it a particular genre,” Stradling said. “We focus on, of course, reading in the early grades. We have sort of a heavy slant in history, as far as, we feel like the great history stories of our heritage they need to know.”
Pathfinder has always been a small school, and will remain so, Stradling said. The school expects to enroll about 190 students this fall with an eventual capacity for 260-270 students in 14 classrooms. The new facility, located at 2906 N. Boulder Canyon in Mesa, has a gymnasium and stage for recitals and presentations.
“We think that this move is a benefit to the families that have been so loyal to us over the years,” said Doug Pike, superintendent of schools for Edkey. “We’ve had a number of students we’ve had to turn away for a number of years … and so we’re excited to provide that opportunity for a lot of people to have a new place and to be able to partake in such an excelling school.”
Pike added Edkey has seen six straight years of double-digit growth, so much that this year, even with adding more students than last year, may constitute a less than 10-percent increase. He expects the schools to serve nearly 6,000 students in the 2014-2015 school year.
Stradling and Edkey are confident that she has tailored her effective home-schooling curriculum to the classroom setting in such a way that more children can learn in this classical style.
“The choice that’s being provided is what is driving growth and popularity,” said Pike. “There’s a larger and larger percentage of parents every year that become informed of their opportunity to choose.”