Carmel women help found cooperative elementary

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From left, teacher Claire Cesjlarev and founding members Sarah Cook, Angela Wills and Courtney McCracken are starting The Limberlost School this fall, the area’s first cooperative elementary school. (Photo by Zach Dobson)

From left, teacher Claire Cesjlarev and founding members Sarah Cook, Angela Wills and Courtney McCracken are starting The Limberlost School this fall, the area’s first cooperative elementary school. (Photo by Zach Dobson)

By Mark Ambrogi

Three mothers enjoyed the cooperative preschool experience so much they didn’t want it to end when their children hit first grade.

Carmel residents Courtney McCracken and Angela Wills, along with Sarah Cook of Indianapolis, all had children in Meridian Hills cooperative kindergarten during the 2014-15 school year.

So they decided to start a cooperative elementary school called The Limberlost School, which will begin classes on Sept. 8. There will be one class of first and second graders. Eventually the plan is for the Indianapolis school, 2720 E. 86th St., to go to fifth or sixth grade.

The school, which McCracken said is the first cooperative elementary school in the Indianapolis area, has rented space in Union Chapel Methodist Church, 2720 E. 86th St.

“It’s hands-on experiential learning with a small classroom,” McCracken said. “Our kids flourish in that setting, and we felt this is what we wanted school to be like and what we thought school should be like.”

McCracken said they have modeled what they saw their kids doing in the kindergarten class.

Claire Cesjlarev, a former teacher at Noblesville West Middle School, has been hired as the teacher. The parents help as teachers aides.

“A cooperative really feels a lot different than a more traditional school,” said McCracken, a 1997 Carmel High School graduate. “You’re a lot more involved with the kids. There is one parent in the classroom each day and we just rotate through the parents. We also run the school. There is no administration outside of the parents. We’re providing so much of the work ourselves that it makes it very affordable.”’

The cost is $3,600 per school year in nine installments. The maximum is 15 students for the first year. McCracken expects 10 to 12 students to be enrolled this fall. McCracken’s son, Henry, Wills’ son, Adam, and Cook’s daughter, Evie, are all enrolled.

Jamine Schaefer of Indianapolis has decided it is a good option for her first-grade daughter, Piper.

“The opportunity to have a real hand in our child’s education while maintaining a healthy balance between school and family life attracted us to Limberlost,” Schaefer said. “Once meeting with the teacher Mrs. Cesjlarev, we knew our daughter would receive quality, hands-on instruction with lots of room for active participation and self-expression that develops authentic critical thinking skills. It’s a place where she’ll love learning just for learning’s sake.”

The school is named for a novel, “A Girl of the Limberlost,” written by Indiana author Gene Stratton-Porter.

For more information, visit thelimberlostschool.org.

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