In the fall of 1980, a group of concerned mothers in the Blackstone Valley, troubled about the effects of severe funding cuts on education, met with a small group led by progressive educators Pat and Ray Budde and pursued the idea of founding an independent school in the Valley area built around two core principles developmentally appropriate curriculum designed to meet the needs of the whole child and parent participation in a three-way partnership of school, parents, and students. The number of interested parents at planning meetings grew and Touchstone Community School opened its doors in September of 1982 with 22 students in two mixed-aged groups, four to six-year-olds and seven to nine-year-olds.
The goal was to enable students to acquire literacy in the broadest sense reading, writing, speaking, listening, and thinking. The early leaders also invited parents to join in the educational process, based on their conviction that the social, emotional, physical, and intellectual well-being of everyone in the school community needs to be supported. Parent involvement has been a distinctive characteristic of Touchstone Community School from the beginning. “Founding parents,” as they have come to be known, set the tone for an extraordinary level of parent involvement and commitment to parent-teacher partnership continues to this day. Currently, over 90% of Touchstone parents volunteer at the school.
The new school committed to remaining accessible to families of all financial levels, and keeping tuition levels affordable has always been one of the highest priorities for the board of trustees. A financial aid program was created very early in the school’s history. Financial Aid supports 40% of students attending Touchstone in this current school year, meeting about 50% of demonstrated need.
From the beginning, Touchstone Community School has expanded conservatively. Thanks to the generosity of families, friends and foundations, three capital campaigns in the first 25 years have provided us with our current attractive campus.
Touchstone is accredited by the Association of Independent Schools of New England (AISNE). Members of the school community share a sense of joy and amazement at what has been achieved since the school’s beginning. Our middle school, which we call our Older Student Program (OSP), was founded in 2004 on the conviction that the kind of educational experience Touchstone provides for primary and elementary school aged children should be extended to include younger adolescents at a time in their lives when being connected to a close and caring community can be of enormous benefit. The OSP makes it possible for students to go directly to high school from Touchstone.
It is demanding and challenging on many levels.
It engages the individual within a community of learners.
It teaches students to ask meaningful questions and consider multiple perspectives.
It involves parents in their child’s education.
It demands teachers constantly and consistently respond to their students learning needs.
It is powerful, meaningful, and sometimes messy.