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Charter middle school surpasses fundraising goal

A last-minute anonymous loan gave a proposed charter middle school the cash it needed to be able to open by fall.

The Valley School of Southern Oregon needed at least $100,000 in its bank account by Wednesday before the Medford School Board would give its approval.

The board sent the proof of deposits to Chief Financial Officer Brad Earl Tuesday morning and that afternoon received Medford's letter of approval as required by state law.

"Medford seems really happy," said Valley School Board member Amy Maukonen. "They sent some nice words of encouragement in the letter. I truly believe that as long as this is happening, they want it to go right. Which is good."

Last week, Valley School was $35,000 short of the $100,000 required by the Medford district to cover its start-up costs. It had $65,000 in the bank and a guarantor letter from the Walton Family Foundation for another $50,000, but its agreement with Medford required the total amount to be on hand.

Maukonen said an anonymous Medford family over the weekend offered the $35,000 as a long-term loan. In addition, the Walton foundation deposited the full amount promised, and the school raised another $3,000 from a Friday music event and private donations. The grand total of its fundraising reached $153,000.

The Valley School will be housed in a former restaurant in Cobblestone Village and will employ a Montessori approach, which involves hands-on and project-based learning. It also will emphasize science, technology, education and math curricula (also known as STEM), which has raised concerns from the community about preference for high-achieving students in its enrollment process. 

The Valley School Board said it intends to be available to all students. Students and parents submit intent-to-enroll forms, which are available on the school's website. Enrollment for this fall is being decided on a first-come, first-served basis, but the board intends to use a lottery system in future years.

"We want this school to be for anybody," Maukonen said.

Contact reporting intern Kaylee Tornay at 5417764368 or ktornay@mailtribune.com.