Private school in Basalt to expand next year |

Private school in Basalt to expand next year

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Stephanie Smith
Scott Condon |

A Basalt-area private school that has offered limited in-house instruction to home-schooled students for the past few years has plans to expand.

Cornerstone Classical School, which currently serves about 35 students from prekindergarten to 10th grade, is growing and will offer five days of classroom teaching during the 2015-16 school year, Principal Steve Marshall said. The school is now seeking enrollees for pre-K through all high school levels.

The curriculum is centered around a “classical Christian model,” Marshall said. Students, even at the elementary school level, are required to study Latin. They also must regularly attend brief, nondenominational chapel services at the school.

Cornerstone currently provides two to three days of instruction from 13 part-time teachers on its staff, including Marshall. On other days, the students — Roaring Fork Valley children who live anywhere from Aspen to Glenwood Springs — are home-schooled.

“One of the passions that I have within the classical Christian model is making sure that we train up, that we equip students who can think for themselves,” Marshall said. “We want to help students who can discern, who can reason, who can argue, who can defend their point of view and articulate.”

Marshall was born in New Mexico but grew up in England; his father served in the U.S. Air Force. He holds dual citizenship and speaks with a British accent. The first-year Cornerstone principal is a graduate of the University of Nottingham.

Prior to joining the Basalt school last summer, the 52-year-old was principal of Heritage School, a private institution located in the Texas Hill Country town of Fredericksburg. He has taught in both public and private schools throughout his career as an educator.

“I’m just concerned that the level of education is not where it needs to be,” he said. “I do not want to suggest that ‘public’ is any less than ‘private.’ They are different options. But at my school, I want to make sure there is excellence.”

He said the two-day-a-week schedule currently in place at Cornerstone, combined with home instruction, doesn’t quite give the older students — junior high level and above — what they need.

“They need more specialized training,” Marshall said. “I’m a well-educated man, but I can’t teach my son calculus. I want our students to have the type of education that makes them passionate about learning but also equips them to do well on their (college entrance exams). It means we’ll need a little bit more vigor, structure and contact time in the classroom.”

He said he is selective when it comes to hiring teachers and looks outside normal channels for instructors who are a special fit for Cornerstone.

“I look for three passions in my teachers,” Marshall said. “We are a Christian school, and they have to have a passion for the Lord. They have to know Jesus Christ as their personal savior. That’s important.

“The second passion is one for teaching. Not everyone is called to be a teacher. I want teachers who have a passion and aren’t just picking up a paycheck because there is nothing better to do.

“The third is either a passion for your subject area or a passion for your age group. For example, I’m a junior high teacher. I love the junior high students, the way they argue, the way they question. I’m designed to be a middle school teacher. I’m also a history-literature teacher, because I love those subjects.”

Marshall laughed but was serious at the same time when he spoke of how he wants his math teacher “to go home and solve quadratic equations with his wife at the dinner table. That’s the kind of passion I’m looking for.”

Under the existing setup, students are offered one “enrichment day” per week, which provides a less-structured atmosphere — what Marshall calls “camps” — for learning various subjects ranging from science and math to art and drama. The enrichment day will still be offered when the school expands.

More information about the school, including tuition rates, is available at http://www.cornerstone

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