When the onset of coronavirus-related mandates and restrictions impacted their local school district, Grove City moms Ashley Feltz and Kelli Martindale were motivated to take action. The two friends, who are also small business owners, hatched an idea cultivated from a conversation.
“We thought about getting a group of families, hiring a teacher and paying the teacher a salary so that our children did not have to learn remotely and did not have to wear masks when they were in school,” Feltz explained. “I have four children, and Kelli has three. She said, ‘I will partner with you and we can grow this.’”
That is how Grove City Freedom School was born.
Across Ohio, many parents continue to pull their children out of public schools and private schools alike because of mask mandates, quarantining guidelines, and – especially last year – remote learning that caused many students to fall behind with their education.
In 2020, Grove City Freedom School featured a hybrid program that saw children meet in a classroom setting led by licensed teachers two days a week from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and an enrichment class once a week. Feltz and Martindale conducted in-depth research, selected a curriculum plan that satisfied state standards, and provided students with a normal school setting without the chaos of what was happening in public school systems and even many private schools.
Though the venture was a success, Feltz and Martindale initially did not plan to continue in 2021-2022. Then the South-Western City School District where they reside announced it was re-instituting the mask mandate not long before the scheduled start of the school year.
“We met at a church last year, but that was not available, so we needed a new space,” Feltz said. “We were deluged with phone calls from parents when the return of the mask mandate was announced. That showed us there was a long-term need and opportunity for the Freedom School, not just in Grove City, but in other Ohio communities and across the United States.”
A new location was secured, and the Grove City Freedom School launched its first full school year with a program that meets four days a week from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and includes Friday fun day.
They established a private education association, which acts like a private membership association and protects the school from government mandates. The Freedom School operates as a ministry under the 508 c1a tax code.
Officially named the Grove City Freedom Collective, the school provides a “Christian education in a location where students are free to interact, play, and learn in a healthy and social environment.
“The collective is founded on Christian beliefs, and we follow a set of core foundational principles. Through a conservative philosophy, we value our constitutional freedoms,” Feltz explained. “We have brought God back into the school. We have a morning prayer and say the Pledge of Allegiance.
“Our format only allows students to attend school without mask mandates, but it also ensures they are not taught CRT and other inappropriate curriculum,” Feltz added. “We teach traditional subjects. It is reminiscent of school a long time ago before a far-left ideology changed what our children are taught in public schools.”
The Grove City Freedom Collective now includes a school in Pickerington, and another one planned for Plain City.
“People are contacting us from central Ohio, other regions of Ohio, and in multiple states across the country,” Feltz said. “To help others launch their own school, we created a consulting company.”
Freedom School teachers are licensed and undergo thorough background checks, Feltz said. Parents are integrated into their children’s education, and they are encouraged to volunteer for activities and events.
At a fall festival, for example, families gathered for an old-fashioned field day with potato sack races, pumpkin painting, games, and cookie decorating.
The Freedom School has an annual tuition of $2,800 for Kindergarten through sixth grade and $1,800 for pre-Kindergarten. Parents receive a discount for paying the entire amount to start, or they can make monthly payments. Tuition includes enrollment. Parents provide the supplies.
When they are contacted by people wanting to start their own Freedom School, Feltz and Martindale have an in-depth interview process that includes a survey to determine if there is enough community interest for the school.
“We have a conversation about why they want to do this. Heart and passion are essential. It requires a lot of time and a lot of work.”
There are three options.
The first is a Freedom School Advocate. This involves people who want to see if it is something viable for their community. There is a private Facebook group. There is no cost for this option.
The Trailblazers package includes a workshop that directs people through the process of getting started to opening day. There is a private Facebook group, and two one-hour phone consultations. Use of the Freedom School logo and name is included. The rate is $997.
The Coach option is the most comprehensive. It also features weekly consultations with Feltz and Martindale through opening day, when consults switch to monthly. This option features access to a document template package, which help with how to hire teachers, how to attract students, and how to implement the curriculum. It is a turnkey program for $1,997.
“What we found is that people prefer the coaching option because they have the vision and heart, but they do not know the complete process of opening a school,” Feltz said. “Our vision is to open freedom schools all over country, and that those who open the schools will become coaches.”
Feltz and Martindale plan to expand the Freedom School to high school. They have created a scholarship fund to assist families who would like to send their children to the school but cannot for financial reasons. To support the initiative, the school is selling sponsorship space in its Christmas concert program and spring recital program. All of the money from these sales will be used for the scholarships.
For more information about purchasing an ad for the program or making a tax-deductible donation, email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the Grove City Freedom School, visit www.gcfreedomschool.com.