Our Humble Beginnings
Our school was founded in 1986 by a group of parents interested in providing a Waldorf education for their children. The first kindergarten opened in the fall of 1986 in the living room of founding parents, Stephen and Jane Heinrichs, in Winters, CA. A group of founding parents (especially Howard Beeman, Susan Pelican, and Diane Simon) searched for a permanent site for the Davis Waldorf School.
In the 1987-1988 school year, an emergency move was made to a site on Road 96 on a "lease option basis." The County Board of Supervisors gave the Davis Waldorf School a two-year conditional use permit. The "condition" was that the school aggressively needed to pursue a permanent site elsewhere. Soon after the emergency move, Howard Beeman and others began negotiating with John Whitcombe for a permanent site in Davis.
For five years, the young community grew, housing our expanding grades in portable classrooms, holding assemblies and plays in the property's open-air barn, and laying straw pathways through the flooded yard each winter.
Finally, A Permanent Home
In the 1988-1989 school year, the first agreement with John Whitcombe was signed for the property on Sycamore Lane. It included a partial donation of land, the Almond House (our current preschool building), and the offer of a loan for construction of the school buildings ($120,000, plus another $60,000, if matched by the school's Capital Campaign contributions). The first Capital Campaign was initiated to raise these much-needed funds.
In the 1990-1991 school year, Board members worked with City Staff, City Council, and Planning Commission to gain final approval of our school project. Additional negotiations with John Whitcombe carried out by members of the Board and the New Site Committee, were focused on off-site costs, moving and refurbishing the Almond House, etc.
In the 1991-1992 school year, relocation to the new site on Sycamore Lane began. The campus and buildings were carefully designed, with community involvement, to harmonize with the ecology of the landscape and the principles of Waldorf education. One of the most distinctive features of our lower grades classrooms is the rammed earth construction techniques used to create their interior walls. Formed of native California clays in beautifully swirled layers, the walls serve as integral works of art, encouraging a sense of connectedness to the earth.
The relocation of the school was a community endeavor, with much landscaping and preparation work done by parents and faculty. The current strings portable was transported from the old site. The Almond House was donated by John Whitcombe and brought by trailer to the site. These buildings, along with the rammed-earth classrooms, formed the original DWS facilities.
The adjacent farm site was placed on the market to pay some of the debts incurred. After exhaustive negotiations, the building permit for our new site was received from the City of Davis. The Bank of Woodland approved a loan of $460,000 for the completion of the first phase of building. Broward Brothers finished the grades building in 1992. We moved to the site, operated the farm for a few years and then sold it. As a result, we had to move the Almond House again to its present location.
Growth to House All Programs
Our first parent-toddler program began in 2003, and in the fall of 2006, we added our preschool program. In the summer of 2006, the upper grades wing was installed, providing a separate classroom for each grade (6th, 7th, 8th.) Over the years, DWS has expanded to include: parent-child classes, two preschool and two kindergarten classes, one class for each grade from one through eight, and Eurythmy, strings, band, Spanish, handwork, woodwork, games and gardening programs.
In 2009, the school board and faculty opted to form a committee to guide the expansion of the school. This “2010 Committee” developed a plan for continued growth, and began the first phase of the project. Zeta construction was contracted to build new wings for both of the kindergartens, administration and a multipurpose room. The innovative green buildings represent the completion of the next phase of this new era of growth at our school. In the fall of 2011, the 8th grade classroom burned down (due to an electrical malfunction), just before the school year began, and a new building was brought on campus in early 2012.