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Meeting planned for new nature school

An informational meeting for a proposed new school, Prairie Ridge Nature School, has been set for Monday, Feb. 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the Douglas County Library.

Prairie Ridge Nature School, according to its acting director, Elizabeth Williams, is a nature-based micro school for students in grades K-6 that is tentatively scheduled to open this fall. A specific site has not yet been determined.

"We refer to our proposed school as a micro-school, by which we mean it will be small in scale and enrollment in order to maintain a favorable student-teacher ratio," said Williams. "Our intention is to combine students in groups comprised of roughly three grades, similar to the class groupings one would find in a Montessori school."

Her goal is to start with an enrollment of 12-18 students in grades K-6 and expand as needed or as long as there is sufficient interest, Williams said. She said they would employ a full-time licensed teacher or teachers, depending on enrollment.

According to Williams, the proposal is for a nature-based elementary that will incorporate natural elements into lessons whenever possible, and use technology in the form of laptops in order to access online curriculum.

"We plan to combine the best of both worlds in order that our students can work independently in areas in which they are ready and able to, while at the same time allowing us to tailor individual instruction as needed," said Williams.

A unique element to the proposed school, Williams said, is that it will be implementing a mastery-based system so that no student ever "fails" and each student is allowed to learn and progress at his/her own pace. With this model, she said, there is no need to administer frequent tests because the teacher will know, from working individually with the students, where every student is at at any given time.

She said this would free up time to spend on other projects, such as field trips, tinkering in the makerspace/tinker lab or spending more time outdoors exploring and learning.

The informational meeting, which will last approximately 75 minutes, will take place in the large meeting room at the library. Williams, along with two other parents who currently make up the board of directors, will offer details and seek feedback from parents.

If there is sufficient interest, Williams said the plan is to open in time for the 2019-20 school year. Prairie Ridge Nature School will be tuition-based and require a minimum of 12 students in order to be fully funded for the first year, she said.

The proposed school will be located on multiple acres within a 15-minute drive of the Alexandria library.

To attend, send an RSVP to For more information, go to, email or call Williams at 218-251-8576.

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. Besides writing articles for the Echo Press, she has a blog, “Newspaper Girl on the Run.” Celeste is on a continuous healthy living journey and loves to teach bootcamp fitness classes and run. She has participated in more than 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon (13.1 mile) distances.

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