The Waldorf School of Philadelphia moves to a permanent new home at 6000 Wayne Avenue this summer. But how was Waldorf Education established in Philadelphia? What was the impetus and how did it come to pass?
Philadelphia created public schools for its underprivileged children at the start of the 19th century. It proudly opened doors to ALL of Philadelphia’s children in 1837. Approximately 150 years later, the system once built for all had reverted to its original intent as parents with resources opted for private, charter and home schools.
Two Waldorf teachers and their close friends approached the turn of our century with a goal — bring Waldorf pedagogy and its ideals to the entire community of Philadelphia, including those struggling with poverty and its trappings.
The early 90’s brainstorm included ideas for a community center that would introduce Waldorf parenting studies, start a Waldorf daycare and offer support services for community challenges. This idea focused around primarily serving children and parents and soon the intention shifted toward starting a school, but always with the idea that the school would contribute to and improve the local community by strengthening families.
This is why, when the school was incorporated in 1995, it did so as the Philadelphia Waldorf Initiative, which would serve as an umbrella corporation for the school and all future endeavors in the community. And so it began. Soon after incorporation the first community outreach was held in Manayunk. A study and playgroup formed, and the first open house was planned with the modest hope of creating a small kindergarten class. Prior to the open house, an article ran on the front page of the City Paper resulting in a packed open house. The school enrolled enough students for not one, but two, sizeable kindergartens!
The city of Philadelphia had spoken. There was great interest in Waldorf Education in the community. On September 5, 1996, the school opened its doors at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Roxborough, Philadelphia. The school was invited to become a member of the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA) as an initiative, with eventual plans to become a member.
After only a year, a first grade was added and the school moved to a different church in Roxborough. As the number of children enrolled grew to 40, it became clear that the school was ready to seek a bigger and better home. In September 1998, the school opened its doors in the Eagles II building on the New Covenant Campus, located on Germantown Avenue in the Mt. Airy neighborhood.
The next five years was an expansive period of change — including restructuring of priorities, accreditation, leadership changes and growth.
At the end of our 2003 school year, student enrollment was 114 and 25 faculty and staff on the payroll. 2004 became a turning point, with re-expansion and new energy in the form of a new Board chair and several new board members, new faculty and a new approach to administration. That year, the school sought, and was granted, accreditation from the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, and in 2006, we were granted developing school status by AWSNA. This was also the year we changed our name to The Waldorf School of Philadelphia.
Over ten years later, The Waldorf School of Philadelphia will move again, but this time to a permanent home at 6000 Wayne Avenue. This will be a place to settle and grow the five kindergartens, nursery, parent-toddler programs, eight grades, and the varied and nourishing program of special subjects. And in ten years time it will truly be a home of our own. To ensure our ability to own it outright, we need to raise $500,000 by July 31st 2015. Watch this short film to learn about this amazing opportunity and how you can support the sustained growth of Waldorf Education in Philadelphia for generations to come.