Frequently Asked Questions
Summerfield Waldorf High School
Q: What are the average class sizes?
A: Our classes range in size between 15-25 students. We are small by design; many classes require hands-on learning and/or are taught in a seminar style similar to college and graduate school. Students collaborate cross-sectionally, fostering an integrated student body.
Q: Why Summerfield Waldorf High School? How does it differ from other high schools in the area?
A: Because we are an independent school supported by tuition, we are able to innovate and respond to our students, as well as facilitate a school culture that is initiative based with a high level of student participation.
Experience the Difference!
• Our Campus & Biodynamic® farm: Our 38-acre campus includes a working, Biodynamic® farm. Students work on the farm and use the campus in their studies. Summerfield offers a daily hot lunch program, which often includes produce from our farm.
• Class Ratios: Our student to faculty ratio is 6:1, ensuring that our teachers really get to know every student and work closely with them to support their unique individual needs.
• Student Support: Students are supported by a dedicated high school counselor and professional college counselor who truly know and encourage our students to strive for their own personal and academic best.
• Freedom from Standardized Testing: Independence from “high stakes” standardized state testing means that teachers have the freedom to decide how to best meet the class – and the individual – while delivering a rigorous curriculum.
• Student Connections across the Grades: Summerfield is an intergenerational campus and the high school students are connected to other grades through campus traditions like the Rose Ceremony. This connection to younger students helps older students take leadership roles and to see their own trajectory through the grades in a unique perspective.
• A Media Policy for Undistracted Learning: We are a cell phone-free campus, although high school students can access their phones at snack and lunch for essential purposes. We have found that refraining from cell phone use while at school allows students to be fully present with their peers, teachers and themselves.
• SRJC Cross-study Program: High school students engage in a variety of research projects and have access to the Santa Rosa Junior College for coursework, which supports individual courses of study.
• International/Exchange Student Program: Summerfield offers a foreign exchange student program, which is available to every high school student and is included (outside of air fare and other travel expenses) with tuition.
• Drug & Alcohol-Free Students: Summerfield upholds an agreement with its students to strive to be drug and alcohol free during their time at our school. We engage parents in support of this agreement and work with the concept of accessing a deeper sense of self-awareness and interest in the world around us so that life in itself is the most pleasurable, meaningful, and enriching experience an individual can have.
We welcome parents from area schools to visit Summerfield and see our campus. Our tuition is significantly lower than other private schools and over 60% of our high school families receive financial aid.
Q: How are students prepared for college?
A: College admissions directors prize Waldorf graduates because our students learn how to think and learn independently, and how to participate in group initiatives. Alumni report that college classes feel similar to their SWHS classes. Our students are well-prepared for their college path. Over the past 5 years, more than 97% of our graduates have attended college directly out of high school, and we continue to send highly-qualified students to over 140 colleges around the world!
Q: Do you offer AP/honors courses?
A: Due to the depth and rigor of our curriculum, G11/12 academics are considered to be on par with Honor courses. We do not offer AP courses.
A: Yes! We are members of the CA Interscholastic Federation, North Coast Section. As a small school, our athletes get much more play time than many larger programs. We strive for a sports program that supports the educational aspects of sport, as well as student well-being.
Q: What role does technology play in the HS?
A: The quality of student engagement deepens with hands-on, face-to-face work with teachers, peers, and course material. We engage in ethical conversations about media use, study comprehensive online research methodologies, and learn budgeting & spreadsheets. Because digital technology evolves so rapidly, we find that teaching students critical thinking and learning skills better prepares them for life in a high tech world than teaching specific technology programs. Alumni have shared that based on their life experiences after high school, they were able to easily pick up the technology they needed for college & their careers.
Q: How do you teach diversity, equity and inclusion?
A: We have the opportunity to teach diversity, equity and inclusion both in the classroom and through interpersonal relationships within our community. In the classroom, our teachers strive to include as many voices and points of view as possible in all subjects, and we encourage lively and respectful debate between our students. The high school curriculum itself covers a very broad array of cultures, histories and identities. In addition, we have offered electives in Race, Class and Gender, Feminist Literature and LGBTQIA + history. Interpersonally, students are expected to cultivate an open mind, treat others with respect and kindness, and take responsibility for the impact of their words and deeds. This is actively facilitated by mentors, counselors and class advisors as well as the curriculum itself. We have an active affinity group for LGBTQIA+ students who meet weekly. We also have an active DEI faculty committee who facilitate diverse offerings into our festival cycle, parent and teacher study groups and ongoing training for faculty and staff. Our whole educational approach is based on students learning to recognize and fulfill their unique path as human beings in the world, and the other side of this deep understanding of self is a real capacity for seeing and honoring another on their own unique path.
Q: Will my student receive grades? How will I be able to tell how my student is doing academically?
A: Yes, we give standard grades, as well as a narrative and student self-evaluation at the end of each class and provide transcripts as requested. Your child’s teachers and counselors communicate directly with both the parents and the students about progress, grades, and challenges.
Q: My student reports they’re ready for a change from grade school: why should my student stay in a Waldorf high school?
A: Waldorf education intentionally builds on itself from kindergarten through 12th grade, with high school being the time students are guided through the narrow places of adolescence into the fullness of their true selves. Thirteen- or fourteen-year-olds simply don’t have the life experience necessary to make this critical decision based on their sympathies and antipathies. Summerfield High School’s community is highly nourishing for each student. New relationships are formed with old classmates and new friendships expand across grades 9-12. Students have access to inspiring teachers who are actively involved in the students’ learning. Building new relationships and reforming old ones is an essential life skill. This is not a comfort area for most teens, and our small environment is a perfect practice space for this important social education. One look and you will see that Summerfield high school students are uncommonly happy to be learning in this community. Your teenager is not ready to make this decision alone, but you do not have to make it alone either. We invite you to talk to us.
Q: What is Open Week?
A: Every fall our entire high school starts the year off by leaving for Open Week. This long-held tradition at Summerfield partners faculty in small groups of mixed-age students and alumni to live side-by-side for one week, creating a lifetime of memories. Different trips are offered to meet individual interests. The following is a sample of Open Week trips: Backpacking in Yosemite, Sailing in the San Francisco Bay, Meditation, Horseback riding, kayaking, and surfing trips.
Q: Can you tell me more about your international/exchange student program?
A: We have a unique exchange student program within the international movement of Waldorf high schools. In tenth grade, our exchange coordinator facilitates students finding a partner at a Waldorf high school in a country of their choice. Once students are matched, they spend several months living together in each other’s homes and countries. Visiting exchange students enrich the high school while they are with us, bringing new perspectives and questions to our school community. Our students frequently gain college-level proficiency in their host country’s language, and return to us with a broader and deeper understanding of the world and themselves.
Q: What are mentors?
A: Every Summerfield High School Student has a faculty mentor to help guide them through the high school years. The mentor checks in with their students at the end of each school day and is available for questions regarding courses, schedules, extracurricular activities, school agreements, and social and personal issues. Mentors are the student’s main point of contact for personal, academic and social concerns. Mentors are also liaisons for the parents of their mentees, available for questions and support. Mentors facilitate a small mixed-age group of mentees and these mentor groups are designed to provide peer support.
A: Yes. Students are required to complete 20 hours of community service per year, however many of our students vastly exceed this requirement in their engagement with local non profits and service organizations.
Q: Do you have a college counselor?
A: Yes. We have a professional college counselor who meets individually with students and families beginning in 11th grade to discuss each family’s needs. They plan and host college and financial aid nights annually. Seniors work in school with the college counselor to complete their applications, and a personal essay class in which they compose and peer review the essay portions of their college applications.
Q: What foreign language/s/ do you offer?
A: We currently offer Spanish I-IV and German I-IV, and students have the option to pursue independent study via accredited courses if they wish to study a different language (ex. French or Mandarin). Many of our students participate in our foreign exchange program and become proficient in the language of their host country while they are away.
Q: Do you offer accommodations for students?
A: Our High School Counseling Program, along with our Mentor Program, offers students academic, college, as well as social-emotional support. While we do not have a remedial education specialist on staff, we do have the capacity to offer limited accommodations for students with different learning needs. If your student will need learning support, please contact the counseling office (707) 575-7194 ext. 109 with any questions and we’ll be happy to discuss options. Students have the ability to take classes at the Junior College, online courses certified through an online program, or support through a tutor. We will work with our students to ensure their needs are met.
A: Summerfield is committed to keeping tuition as low as possible so that all who want to attend our school can do so. 61% of our high school families receive tuition assistance. We use an outside analysis provided by the company FACTS Grant and Aid Management to engage in a transparent conversation about what each family is able to pay towards tuition costs so that their children can receive a Summerfield education.
Q: How do students do, who join Summerfield Waldorf High School if they didn’t attend a Waldorf Lower School?
A: Students from outside the Waldorf system who join us in the high school are warmly welcomed by their peers, who are happy to teach them about main lesson books, class meetings, the festival cycle and other Waldorf traditions. Because our classes are small and familiar, newcomers have an honored place for the perspectives and experiences they bring. The support system we have in place for all students (mentors, class advisors, counselor and caring teachers) carries students through their transition into this unique form of education. Depending on the student, they sometimes experience surprise at how interactive our classes are, and the level to which artistic expression and critical thinking is integrated across subjects, however they reliably integrate quickly.
Q: What facilities do you have?
A: In addition to classrooms, our facilities include a beautiful performance hall, library, physics and chemistry lab, biology lab, movement room, pottery studio, a new Art Tech Building with a blacksmithing forge, weaving and wood-working studios, music practice rooms. We have an outdoor basketball court, running track, soccer field and outdoor volleyball courts and full-sized circus tent. Our 38 acre campus is also home to a working, beyond organic, Biodynamic® farm which is integrated into our curriculum from preschool-12th grade. Summerfield’s commercial kitchen provides delicious farm-to-table hot lunches, with many ingredients from our Biodynamic® farm, for our students 1st – 12th grade.
Q: How will my student be prepared for the world beyond Summerfield and Waldorf?
A: The students are well prepared for their post-high school path – our academically rigorous coursework primes them for selective colleges, a vocation of their choice, or an alternate learning path. Young people, especially those in high school, need to be inspired to be engaged and to succeed. Additionally, they need to feel safe and secure enough to take that inspiration and turn it into something real, lasting, and meaningful when they become adults. In a survey conducted by the Research Institute for Waldorf Education about Waldorf graduates, these measures of success were found:
- 94% of Waldorf High School graduates go on to college
- 91% practice and value life-long learning
- 94% are self-reliant and value self-confidence
- 89% are highly satisfied in choice of occupation
- 90% highly value other viewpoints
- 50% more Waldorf graduates study science and math than the general population
Q: Who should make the decision about high school – parent or student?
A: Thirteen- or fourteen-year-olds simply don’t have the life experience necessary to make this critical decision based on their sympathies and antipathies. Your teenager is not ready to make this decision alone, but you do not have to make it alone either. We invite you to talk to us and bring us your questions. The Summerfield teachers and staff are happy to respond or to help direct your question(s) to someone who can answer them. In addition, please talk to the Finance Committee if money is a question. Over 60% of our high school families receive tuition assistance. This is a very important decision: possibly the last major decision you will make about your child’s future!