"Whales and more at the Circle School"
Oregon Hill Times (Aug 2002)
by gayla mills
Sometimes the best things in life are in your own back yard. The Circle School on China Street is one of those things. Infants to 12 year olds learn together in an idealistic setting with principal Napi Ippolito setting the tone for the school. Between three and six teachers work at the non-profit school depending on the time of year, with some help coming from VCU and Open High interns.
Napi began the school 20 years ago on Harrison Street. She moved the children to Oregon Hill four years later when she learned that the city was planning to create Linear Park and that a house was available next to it. The school uses child-led learning, outdoor experiences, mixed age classes, parent role models, and many other creative learning techniques. Parents also appreciate the vegetarian kitchen, flexible hours, and availability of barter for tuition.
The school's whale tail and mural are one of the most visible and appealing images of the neighborhood that people see from Belvidere. "Whales are intelligent life forms that live in communities and nurture their children," said Napi. The lower part of the mural was painted by the kids, but the upper portion, including the plaster tail, was painted by a VCU student with a grant for public art.
The school has helped Oregon Hill not only with neighborhood clean-ups and community service, but most importantly with helping part of Linear Park bloom.
Kids who attend the school come from both inside and outside the neighborhood. The Circle School is a successful alternative for parents looking for a small, nurturing school that is a true community of students, teachers, and parents.