Veritas Academy opens

As students prepare to walk into classrooms today across Washington County, a whole new group of students will walk through the halls of a newly formed school to be taught under the tenants of Latin education.

Months after word got out that a group of parents were forming the Veritas Academy in Marietta, the school housed at the old Fairview Heights School will be open for students in grades pre-K through sixth.

Administrators said the school met its initial enrollment goals, but has plenty of room to expand to become a full K-12 school within just a few years.

“Our goal was about 40 to 50 kids and we’re at about 41,” said Kevin Ritter, one of the school’s founders who will serve as a part-time administrator. “We may have kids joining late.”

The clustered school system means four classrooms, with eight enrolled in the pre-K and kindergarten cluster and about 10 to 12 in the first/second, third/fourth and fifth/sixth clusters.

“I’m excited to get started,” said third/fourth teacher Emily Gale, who moved from Las Vegas, Nev. to Vienna, W.Va. with her husband recently. “We’ve been working really hard to get classrooms ready. There are a lot of little things that had to be done.”

Gale had taught at different elementary levels previously with about six years of experience, but said she is excited to dive into curriculum that teaches virtues incorporated into curriculum.

The building has nine total classrooms, a gymnasium, library and a few extra storage rooms, meaning that Veritas can continue on with its plan to add seventh and eighth grades next year and then high school grades in the following years.

“We’re very happy with how it’s gone so far, and it’s amazing that people are still learning about us,” said spokesman Austin Rehl, whose wife will be teaching first and second grade.

Interviews are conducted for all prospective students, and Ritter said though most students come from the Washington County and Parkersburg areas, there are a few students from states as far as Wyoming and Colorado enrolled, and faculty from as far away as California.

Lunch is bring-your-own, allowing meals to be held in an extra classroom.

“All children will be able to eat together, because we’ll have them all in one room,” Rehl said. “Siblings will all have a chance to eat together, and staff will eat with students.”

The school is currently staffed with seven people, including four teachers, new headmaster Ben Rutherford, and administrative support.

“Rutherford is also at Washington State, so he will be here several days a week and I’ll be here when he isn’t,” Ritter said.

Ritter said through the past several months, misconceptions about Veritas’ Latin education curriculum have come to the surface.

Grades first through fourth are specifically designed to be grammar courses, where Ritter said students are learning facts and raw material. Middle school grades are designed for logic and high school is focused on practicing rhetoric and rigorous critical thinking.

Private schools like Veritas that aren’t tax funded can adopt their own standards rather than following those set by the state.

Latin is also taught starting at the elementary level, with the reasoning that Latin, though a “dead language” when it comes to conversational speaking, still provides the roots and therefore the understanding for many terms in science, math, music and other subjects.

Composers of the month and guest speakers to supplement music, Latin and other specialized subjects are also part of the curriculum, but all classes, including fine arts, will be taught inside the primary classroom.

Ritter said a large community came together to make the school possible. Besides the founding parents, community members and parents of new students have donated time and supplies to launch the school.

“We’ve had so many people volunteering at a local level, to be in the library, to do after-school programs, it’s been a real community effort,” he said. “I would say about 90 percent of the books are donations from the community.”

The recently-closed Barking Dog Books donated books and shelves to the school’s full library and formed a wish list that allows patrons to buy books the school requires for students, and local contractor Mark Mondo donated the manpower and supplies to repaint the old school gym, which will also be used for daily morning assemblies.

“We’ll have a morning assembly every day and all grades will meet together and say the pledge, sing a patriotic song, like the national anthem, and do a recitation, like a poem,” Ritter said. “Kids will participate in this and each grade will prepare something.”

Rehl said the school founders and administrators want to stress that the goal of Veritas was not to push out other schools in the area.

“We want Washington County to have great schools, whether they’re religious, public or private,” he said. “Strong schools are important for the vitality of this area, and the more options, the better the vitality.”

The school day at Veritas begins at Wednesday at 8:45 a.m. and lets out at 12:45 for pre-K and kindergarten and 3:20 for remaining students, and will be followed by German language and chess after-school programs that will eventually give way to drama courses later in the year.

Tuition for the 2014-2015 school year is $2,100 for pre-K and kindergarten, $3,200 per elementary student and $2,900 for each additional child in a family, and assistance is available based on the school’s scholarship fund.