History of City Garden School

City Garden School is a 501c3 nonprofit independent school in Columbia, MO. City Garden School was incorporated first as an LLC by Nicole Knapp-Weber in June of 2013 and then as a non-profit organization, receiving 501c3 status in September 2014. We were founded by a small group of parents who wanted a school inspired by Waldorf education for their elementary students. When we first began, we had 12 students spanning grades 1-3 and one teacher who also acted as the Director. We had a small Board of Directors that met once a month and did much of the admin work as well. We rented two rooms in Calvary Episcopal Church in downtown Columbia and we visited Peace Park for recess. Every Friday, parent drivers would help bring our students to a nature area in the county. We visited Three Creeks Conservation Area, Rockbridge State Park, Pinnacles, and local city parks as well. This Outdoor Friday program continued for many years. In our second year, we added a teacher and grade 4. We then had two classrooms, a combined 1st and 2nd grade and a combined 3rd and 4th grade, and around 15 to 16 students. We partnered with the University of Missouri’s Confucius Institute to bring a Mandarin teacher to City Garden for that year.

Since Waldorf education typically teaches foreign languages to their students, we continued to look for a language teacher. We had a German teacher and then a Spanish teacher. Eventually, we had a Spanish and German teacher and the German teacher also took on some teaching for the addition of a 5th grade. Still, our student body was under 20 students. In the next few years, City Garden remained steady at this rate. We added a homeschooling program for students to visit our classes 2-3 times a week, and many homeschooling families joined us. We also added a part-time Director who was not one of the class teachers.

With the onset of Covid 19, we met the education crisis with outdoor education. It was in the 2020-2021 school year that we first rented Camp Takimina from August to November and March to May, returning to our location at Calvary Episcopal Church in the deepest winter months. We saw a rapid increase in our student body, almost doubling to around 35-40 students. We also added a Middle School Enrichment Program outdoors on Wednesday and Friday mornings and filled this program with 20 students. We had three classrooms for 1st through 5th grade, an Aftercare program and teacher, a part-time Spanish teacher, and a part-time Director and Administrative Assistant. We stopped going on Outdoor Fridays because we were outdoors all week! We enjoyed the outdoors and saw how wonderful it was for our students, so we decided to keep the focus. However, we moved our indoor location to Karis Church, which afforded us a larger indoor location. In the 2021-2022 school year we added a fourth classroom.

In the 2022-2023 school year we are adding a kindergarten and a 6th grade, with the goal of becoming a K-8 by the 2024 - 2025 school year. The plan is to add an additional grade each of the next two school years. We have added a reading specialist, middle school math teacher, kindergarten teacher, and assistant kindergarten teacher. We will add woodworking in the spring as a compliment to the handwork classes that we already teach. Our school continues to grow and we are excited that nearly every class is filled to capacity for this school year.

Check out the 2014 article from The Missourian in which Ms. Knapp discusses the beginning of the school!