The North Branch School

The North Branch School, founded in 2001, is a non-profit, independent school in Ripton, VT serving middle school age children (grades 7-9). With twenty-seven students and a low student/teacher ratio, The North Branch School is able to build a rigorous, flexible, personalized and engaging environment.

The school is based around a close community of parents, teachers, and student who share a vision of a small school tailored to the unique needs of early adolescents. The founding philosophy is centered on a school concept that promotes self-directed and active learning, incorporates students’ emotional, intellectual, and growth issues, emphasizes experiential and outdoor education, and fosters a strong community based upon close student-teacher-parent relationships.

The curriculum is designed as a three-year experience encouraging a safe, intimate learning community in which students can make the important transition from the elementary grades to high school. Middle school-age children undergo tremendously complex and exciting cognitive, psychological, social, and physical changes. The North Branch School is committed to using those changes as an organizing touchstone throughout the curriculum—as a way of educating the whole child and making school relevant to heart, mind, body and soul.

About the Name 

The name of The North Branch School derives from the brook of the same name originating in the watershed below Robert Frost Mountain, near Ripton. From there it feeds into the Middlebury River, flowing west and north to Otter Creek and finally into Lake Champlain.

As a rising spring gathers and grows to become part of a larger body, the North Branch suggests a sense of motion and confluence, a place of origin and a place of coming together. We see the school as a nourishing element, a way station on a vital journey, a process of living and learning that deepens and broadens in time.

The Building 

Our schoolhouse is located in Ripton on the Lincoln Road, 9/10ths of a mile from the Ripton General Store/Rte. 125, and just across from the Ripton Elementary School. The school building is a recycled 1850 post-and-beam farmhouse and was re-erected on our site in the summer and fall of 2003. Designed to allow expansion, we added a wing to the east in 2008. The building is sunny, open and accessible, and divided into various spaces, including two offices, a large meeting/classroom/big-room, a science room, a math room, two bathrooms, and a full basement/workshop/clay studio. The school is in a secluded wooded setting and has a large playing field and student built nature trails, bird path, ponds and gardens in the woods. Alas, we do not have a gymnasium or a swimming pool.

A Framework of Values 

The North Branch School is organized around ten core values which form the basis of the school’s curriculum and approach to children as developing learners.

A curriculum that:

• Allows students of different abilities and backgrounds to succeed, with success being measured by a student’s willingness and effort to
deepen intellectually, ethically, artistically and emotionally
• Emphasizes the integration of intellectual endeavors with students’ idealism, beliefs and visions
• Is personally relevant and provides opportunities for reflection on the self
• Gives responsibility to students for creating and maintaining a vigorous and positive learning environment

 A community which encourages: 

• An awareness of and experiences in the natural world
• Physical activity and physical health
• Respect for people of diverse backgrounds
• A concern for the well-being of others in the school and greater community
• Learning as a life-long endeavor occurring within and beyond the classroom walls
• Openness, a sense of humor and fun

The school is officially recognized by the State of Vermont and meets or exceeds all licensing standards. The school is a 501 (c) 3, tax-exempt entity.