A Brief History of the Vancouver Waldorf School

A Brief History of the Vancouver Waldorf School

The story of the Vancouver Waldorf School begins in the summer of 1967 when, within a few months of each other, three families moved to the same neighbourhood of West Vancouver with a common dream that their children would have a Waldorf education. By 1969, these families had worked together to launch a Waldorf kindergarten that September. Eight children were enrolled in that inaugural kindergarten class.

This original parent group continued their rich involvement with the fledgeling school, taking turns serving as the kindergarten teacher’s assistant, hosting open houses and information evenings, and fundraising through swap meets, plant sales, and art sales. Several more families enrolled their children in the kindergarten and all parents worked hard to raise enough money to cover operating costs.

In 1970, the Waldorf School Association of British Columbia and its Board of Trustees formed. That same year, the kindergarten moved into a converted garage in North Vancouver. By that time, the early childhood program had become three groups: a nursery, a junior kindergarten for four-year-olds, and a senior kindergarten for five and six-year-olds. In 1971, following public lectures by prominent figures in Waldorf education, Francis Edmunds and Werner Glas, a decision was ratified by the Board of Trustees to open grades one and two that September. Newspaper advertising began and pamphlets were distributed across the North Shore and yet, the Waldorf School Association had no building, no teachers and very few children to enrol in a grade school.

After tireless efforts by the kindergarten teachers and parent volunteers, 12 children took part in the opening assembly of the Vancouver Waldorf School on September 6, 1971, in a rented space in Horseshoe Bay. At the start of the school’s second year, 33 children were enrolled in grades one through three. In 1972, the early childhood programs moved to St. Catherine’s Church in Edgemont Village. In 1973, 45 children were enrolled in grades one through four. In 1974, the resolve was made to keep the school on the North Shore and in 1976, it moved to its present-day Lynn Valley location and was soon adding a grade each year.

As the school grew, so did the faculty. A College of Teachers was formed and a management committee supported the school’s operations. Annual general meetings were well-attended and lively, with plenty of opportunity for community input and discussions around growth. The school was a hub of cultural activity as it regularly hosted guest speakers and conferences.

The early childhood programs moved to the grade school campus in 1981. That same year, a Waldorf high school was launched as a parent initiative and was supported by a group of Waldorf teachers. The high school rented premises in its current location, at the Highlands United Church in Edgemont Village, and started with a single class of grade 10 students as the grade nine students attended classes at the grade school. By the fall of 1982, the grade school became a kindergarten through grade eight school, which allowed the high school to serve two classes: grade nine and grade 10. In the fall of 1984, the high school officially joined the Vancouver Waldorf School. By 1985, the grade school—boosted by the presence of the early childhood programs—reached its first full complement of eight grades.

In the early 1990s, after a flurry of community input and engagement, plans were drafted for a new grade school. Three new classrooms were built in 1995, which became the permanent classes of grades six through eight.

By the late 1990s and early 2000s, it became clear that a new early childhood centre – including infant and toddler care – would better serve the growing community. Bolstered by generous capital donations and grant money, the beautiful new facility opened its doors in 2005.

Over the past 15 years, the school has continued to deepen and broaden its cultural life. The annual Festival of the Arts, now in its 31st year, is a grades two through 12 curricular showcase held at Centennial Theatre in North Vancouver every spring. The Winter and Spring Music Concerts celebrate the violin, viola and cello players from grades four through 12. Every year, eurythmy students from grades two through 12 also share their work with the community on both professional and school stages. All-school theatre collaborations and performances with Cascadia Society, a local Camphill community, started in 2007 with the first of ten Christmas Fairy Tale Productions. Underlying this vibrant performance culture are the annual class plays and The Shepherds’ Play, in which faculty and administration collaborate to present this gift to the students and community.

The educational program has also continued to grow. The Early Childhood Centre now includes a two-day preschool program and four Parent and Tot classes (one of which is offered on Saturday to better accommodate families). The grade school has an after-school program to support parents’ work schedules. The high school curriculum now offers greater flexibility and streaming options for math and sciences and continues to “feel” like a bigger school than it is, thanks to well-established and popular international exchange and homestay student programs.

Looking forward to the 100th anniversary of Waldorf education in September 2019 and to the 50th anniversary of the VWS in September 2021, the school community remains humbled and inspired by the legacy of those that have come before us. We are endlessly grateful for their unwavering commitment and the decades of hard work invested in supporting this school and community to become what it is today.

VWS Moving Forward

Thank you to Phil Fertey for compiling this brief history, abridged for the VWS Current and website by Mary Henley, Community and Resource Development Manager (mhenley@vws.ca).