Melissa Syvanto was researching schools online one day and typed the words “Classical” and “Hebrew” into her browser.
One school popped up — Agamim Classical Academy.
The school, which is slated to open next fall in Hopkins, is set to become the nation’s first public school to offer a focus on both the Hebrew language and Classical instruction, a teaching approach that emphasizes grammar, rhetoric and logic.
“I thought, ‘This is perfect for our daughter,’ ” said Syvanto, 37, of Roseville, whose husband grew up in Israel and speaks Hebrew. “I couldn’t believe it.”
The charter school is the product of a four-year effort by a group of parents to expand Classical education opportunities in the Twin Cities. Currently, there are just a few Classical schools in the Twin Cities.
“So many schools lack the kind of academic rigor we wanted for our children,” said Serena Harad, one of the school’s founders. “The kind of rigor found in Classical education just can’t be matched. That’s why there are over 1,000 kids on waiting lists for the schools that currently offer it in the Twin Cities. We saw a need.”
The school will serve students in kindergarten through third grade and grow one grade each year until it’s a K-8 school. It is authorized by Novation Education Opportunities.
American values are vital
In addition to focusing on Hebrew and Classical instruction, the school also will place an emphasis on teaching American values, Harad said.
“At one time, it was the obligation of the American public school to educate students as to what it means to be an American and foster the development of American identity,” she said. “As the next generation of American citizens, Agamim students will recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily, and study America’s core values of liberty and ‘E pluribus unum.’ ”
Leading Agamim is Miranda Morton, a former school director at Nova Classical Academy in St. Paul. Before that, she taught English, science and art history at another Classical school in Wisconsin.
She is a passionate advocate for Classical studies, which she says offers a “complete education.”
“Kids today don’t focus on grammar, they don’t study various forms of logic,” she said. “In Classical education, we do.”
Morton said she thinks the Classical education will align “extraordinarily well” with Hebrew, a language she will be learning along with her students. The school will offer at least one daily class taught entirely in Hebrew through a curriculum used by schools in the Hebrew Charter School Center.
Jon Rosenberg, the HCSC chief executive officer and president, said Agamim will be the network’s first school to fuse Hebrew with Classical education.
He thinks it will be a good fit.
“The Hebrew language requires a lot of rigor,” he said. “It requires kids to learn a new code, a new language. The idea that Classical education requires a lot of rigor makes a good fit with Hebrew, which also has a high, but appropriate level of complexity.”
Rosenberg said he’s been impressed with the Agamim’s founders who have a clear vision of what they want the school to be and have hired an excellent principal in Morton.
“This board understands what it takes to run a successful school,” he said.
Location pinned down
Recently, the school’s founders announced they have reached an agreement to lease space in the former St. John’s Catholic School at 1503 Boyce St. in Hopkins.
Harad and Morton said the former school is a great fit for Agamim because it functions like a traditional school building. Many charter schools in the Twin Cities lease space in strip malls or share the building space with other groups.
Syvanto toured the building and said she loved it and became even more impressed with Morton.
In fact, she and her husband are so taken with Agamim that they aren’t intimidated by the commute from their Roseville home.
“For us, it’s worth it,” she said. “This school offers everything we want for our daughter. We’re not going to let that drive stand in our way.”