St. Stephen's Proudly Supports the Newly Established Blanco River Academy

From the time that I arrived as Head of School at St. Stephen’s, parents have talked about wanting a return to a PreK3 through 8th Grade school. As an element of the 2013 – 2016 St. Stephen’s Episcopal School Strategic Plan, a task force was created in 2013 – 2014 to research the advisability of adding the 7th and 8th grades.  Included in that process was a planning session with two members of the executive staff of the School’s accrediting entity, the Southwestern Association of Episcopal Schools. With their guidance, it was determined that St. Stephen’s was not yet ready to add 7th grade at the end of the 2014 – 2015 school year. However, the Task Force proposed to the Board that the discussion continue as the School worked to fully reach all of the benchmarks recommended by SAES. 

With this decision as a backdrop, a number of parents of our current 6th Graders developed a proposal to create a home school association to keep the class together for 7th and 8th Grade and to lease space for such an enterprise on the St. Stephen’s campus. Almost all of these students have younger siblings at St. Stephen’s, and the desire to keep these families together was a huge driving force. In early November 2014, these parents, led by Kristie Kimbell and Jeremy Steele, began serious discussion with the School about their plan. The idea was embraced enthusiastically by the Executive Director of SAES, believing it could even become a model for other small schools wishing to test expansion. In short order, approval to move forward was received from the St. Stephen’s Board of Trustees, The Diocese of West Texas, and the Vestry of Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church. 

The parents have worked feverishly to meet all of the legal requirements of formation of the Blanco River Academy, including creation of an active board with various working committees. A draft written agreement between the School and the Academy is under review by the Board of Trustees and the Chancellors of both the Diocese and the Vestry.  

On so many levels, St. Stephen’s could not be more pleased about this development. The current 6th Grade Class is very special to us all, and to be able to continue to have these students on our campus is wonderful. This is also a significant opportunity for the School to “test the waters”  of expansion without financial liability and to see an adequate level of interest in private 7th and 8th Grade grow so that St. Stephen’s can continue to work toward reestablishing a PreK3 through 8th Grade community. Please support the Academy’s efforts by spreading the word about this great new educational opportunity in the Wimberley Valley.


Marsha Acock, Head of School

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Creative minds wanted! Come be a part of our growing team.

Blanco River Academy is actively interviewing for the 2015-2016 school year. We have both full time and part time openings in the core subjects: math, science, language arts and social sciences. Click here for more details.

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***FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Introducing Blanco River Academy 7th & 8th Grade***

In an effort to continue the rich educational experience of St. Stephen's Episcopal School (SSES), the parents of this year's SSES 6th grade students organized and created the Blanco River Academy (the Academy).  The Academy, technically a Home School Association (501c2), will provide 7th and 8th grade and will be housed on the SSES campus. This group, many of whom have students who have attended SSES for 5 or more years, believe strongly in the pursuit of academic excellence. Equally important to this group is the emphasis on nurturing spiritual and moral growth, as well as, a focus on community and social responsibility -- both through service and through an intentional effort to understand other ways of thinking, doing, and believing. In addition to strong academic and spiritual development, the 52 acre SSES campus and philosophy affords students the opportunity to have a deep appreciation of their environment: its natural elements, stewardship, and a physical connection to it. 

While keeping with many of the SSES traditions (eg., academic excellence, chapel, archery, low student-teacher ratio), the Blanco River Academy framework is somewhat analogous to that of a start-up company: fresh and innovative, fluid and creative, forward-thinking and interactive. The Academy will avail itself of evidence-based teaching/learning methodologies, promoting responsible use of modern technologies, while meeting and exceeding requisite core subject content.   

Due to strong economic impact of the 2008 recession, following the 2009-2010 school year, SSES closed the doors on its 7th/8th grade, with the goal of returning to a PreK-8 model school again in the future. As the School continues on its path of re-growth and expansion, this plan is growing nearer in its sights. The Academy provides a tremendous opportunity as a stepping stone toward this end. With the continued phenomenal growth of SSES, they will be much better positioned to meet this goal in several years and the Academy will have laid the groundwork to make this a smooth transition. 

In its inaugural year, the Academy will enroll 12-14 7th and 8th grade students.  While a number of these spots are spoken for by current SSES 6th graders, the Academy will be accepting applications for the remaining 5-6 spots. The Academy will be hosting informational meetings on May 20, 2015, at 8:30 am and 6:30 pm, and on May 30, 2015 at 10:00 am. Meetings to be held in McArthur Hall on the St. Stephen's campus. If you have interest in attending, or preliminary questions about the Academy, please feel free to contact to reserve a spot at the meeting.