Preserving & advancing
local education in southern vermont



Our goal is to establish an independent school in Ludlow that will continue the education of middle and high school students once Black River High School (BRHS) closes in 2020.


Black River Independent School graduates have the confidence, resourcefulness and skills to pursue a life of purpose, personal fulfillment and ongoing learning.

We offer a challenging and meaningful academic program that balances active exploration, adventure, interrelated curriculum, authentic and joyous engagement.

We cultivate the personal qualities of each student to become a wholehearted human being with integrity, open communication, strong moral character, physical well being, and appreciation of creativity.

We instill an appreciation of the relationships between individuals, societies and the natural world. We embrace and role model the principles of democratic governance, stewardship of the environment, respect for human dignity, and service as a way of life.

By providing an atmosphere of intellectual, artistic, and physical challenge within the warmth of a nurturing community, we develop in our students the confidence and skills they will need  to meet the complexities of their future.

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Global Breadth of Perspective


Black River students will learn to develop a broad sense of the world through a curriculum that encompasses a diversity of perspectives. The school will incorporate members of the greater community as educators. Curriculum will focus on a wide variety of cultures, religions, languages and the challenges of socioeconomic diversity. Students will see themselves both as rooted inhabitants of Vermont, and as global citizens with a responsibility to be creative problem solvers for current and future generations.


Democratic Participation & Justice


Active participation in democracy is essential to BR, where students, in partnership with adults in the community, will help shape school policy. We will incorporate students’ voices and values through Personal Action opportunities and student government in the Middle School, and Town Hall Meetings and community planning meetings in the High School.


Environmental Stewardship

Students will connect to wild places and will gain an understanding and respect for the natural world through the curriculum and practicum. Students will be able to: Explore the natural world through observation and application of ecological concepts, and develop a sense of place built in relationship to experiencing wilderness. Students will be able to articulate an environmental ethic and understand land management and environmental issues. They will learn about minimizing their impact on the environment, and learn the difference between avoidable impact and unavoidable impact. 


Outdoor Adventure 

BR develops in students the appreciation of physical fitness and personal growth through the challenge of outdoor adventures. From 7th grade through 12th, they will explore local access to the outdoors, take field trips and camping trips to regional wilderness areas, and participate in the outdoor curriculum as it is woven into daily classes. In the High School, they will have the opportunity to complete an extended wilderness expedition. They will have opportunities to join outdoor adventure clubs which may include activities such as rafting, skiing, sea kayaking, and rock climbing. Throughout their time at BR, students will be provided with opportunities to hike the Long Trail in Vermont, learn how to collaborate in a small group setting, problem-solve, empathize, and believe in themselves and others. 


Personal Action


Personal Action is situationally appropriate action that directs or guides an individual or group to set and achieve goals. BR encourages students to discover the importance of effective leadership in making positive contributions. Students will practice communication skills and good community behavior habits— take initiative and remain respectful and inclusive of team members while balancing group and personal goals. Students will serve on teams in a variety of roles: self leader, peer leader, designated leader, and active follower. Students will learn various decision-making strategies and skills for tolerating adversity and uncertainty. Students will demonstrate self awareness and initiative by setting and achieving goals. All students will have the opportunity to participate in student government. High School students will have formal leadership training in a variety of classes and participate in town and community government organizations.

Engagement in Community

A person living within a community considers every opportunity, in all aspects of everyday life, to provide for the needs of others and to take action in society. They seek to ensure that their impact, and the difference they make in the world, are positive. Socially-responsible decision-making infuses every area of their life from employment and business to personal, financial and domestic decisions.

Black River develops in students the qualities of service work and compassion. Through engagement and service, they will learn about and make connections with those in need in local communities. Students will make a significant commitment of time during their school career in service to the School and to the wider community, and these experiences will be integrated into the academic curriculum.



Recent Agendas & Minutes

All minutes and agendas for our meetings are posted to this site.

  • August 8 (BRHS, 6:30pm) Agenda & Minutes


Get Involved

Join us at our meetings to make your voice and vision heard, and help us shape the school. 

Please check out our calendar for upcoming events and meetings. All weekly meetings are held at Black River High School Library.



Black River Independent School will open its doors in August 2020 and take students from grades 7 – 12. Children whose parents or guardians are residents of Ludlow or Mount Holly, will be eligible to attend the school using their school choice tuition vouchers. There will be NO out-of-pocket tuition for these children if they choose to attend the school. 

If you are a local resident in Ludlow or Mount Holly and you have children who will be of the right age to attend Black River Independent School in 2020 or in subsequent academic years, please fill out the following form to let us know if you’re interested in enrolling your child at the new school.


Our Commitment

we are committed to…

  • Developing an innovative independent school that provides the best possible education for the children of our community, a school that strives for excellence and brings out the personal best in every student, a school that will attract new families to our communities.

  • Working towards a smooth transition from the current public school to an independent school by providing continuity of the programs offered including special education.

  • Offering competitive compensation and benefits to retain excellent and committed staff and attract new highly qualified and motivated staff.

  • Providing transportation for all students in Ludlow and Mount Holly who choose to attend Black River Independent School.

  • Developing a strategic plan for the school that builds on the strengths of the current school and expands on those strengths. Such a plan will include collaborations with local non-profit institutions, universities and businesses, as well as a financial sustainability proposal.

In the midst of an educational sea change, we have an opportunity to create a brand new school that’s innovative, nimble, efficient and engaging
— Colin McKaig


Our goal is to establish an independent school in Ludlow that will continue the education of middle and high school students once Black River High School (BRHS) closes in 2020.

Our current steering committee consists of residents, parents, and educators. We welcome everyone who is interested in joining in the effort to open Black River Independent School. Please consider attending one of our meetings.


  • Is it really going to happen?

    • Yes.

  • What kind of transportation will be offered

    • We plan on using vans to transport students.

  • My child wants to take driver’s education

    • Great, we can have that as a supplementary part of the curriculum for students as the need arises

    • If we are unable to offer the class the state of Vermont provides vouchers for students to take the class elsewhere

  • Tell me more about the member to member in athletics

    • We can work with another area school that provides the sports our students might like to participate in. We can have one member school per season, however its best to use one member school per year. 

  • Are you going to offer lunch and breakfast programs?

    • Yes, and as part of our community and personal action pillars, we plan to have a culinary program where all students prepare some portions of served meals for their peers. Eventually, we would like to be to serve dinner to students and their families on a regular basis to help continue to foster a strong community.

    • We expect to see approx. 16,000 as the current state avg per student and we will receive the avg amount from the state for each student with “school choice”. We are budgeting to spend at least that amount on our students, and more whenever possible.

  • Will you offer extra-curricular activities other than athletics?

    • We will offer a broad range of activities and consider the interests of our students 

  • What about mercury in the building and asbestos

    • The building is up to code, there is asbestos in a room on the 1st floor encapsulated by carpeting

  • My kid needs educational services what do you plan to do? Will you follow IEPs and 504s?

    • We want to provide an education coordinator to handle these cases and plan to work with families on meeting all the goals to ensure equal access to education for all.

  • Wilderness experiences vs survival courses

    • Wilderness experiences are meant to take students out of the traditional setting and place them in a small community that encourages direct communication, empathy, tests decision-making strategies, leadership skills and builds confidence through competence in a unique skill set. 

  • Why so much money to start-up

    • No one can stop us from opening our doors regardless of how much money we raise, however, our fundraising progress may impact the state's promptness in approving our application. We want to pay faculty for creating an exceptional curriculum and would like to hire faculty, staff and a Head of School before any state funding would arrive. 

  • What kind of grading system will be used? Proficiency-Based vs. Traditional 

    • The grading system we use will be determined based on each student’s personal learning plan, both options are available to us as an Independent School.

  • Are we accredited?

    • Not yet, all schools need to be open for a minimum of 1 year before they can apply to become a candidate for accreditation and then there is an extensive approval process with site visits, written long term and short term strategic plans and a physical evaluation. This can take 18 months to 2 years, and when we are ready we will pursue this option. 

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We want to publicly thank all of our donors to our start up campaign to get this school’s doors open!



Gifts of $100,000 +


Gifts of $25,000 +

Ludlow Mountain

Gifts of $10,000 +

The Macke and Wilson Families

Maple Tree

Gifts of $5000 +


Gifts of $1000 +

Burns & Associates

Homestyle Hostel

Jenkins Builders

The Marjorie H. Buckley Trust



Gifts of $500 +

Maroon & White

Gifts of $100 +

Lisa and Bruce Schmidt

We want to list your name here - if you donated and you are not listed please reach out