By Emma Grivotte
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“The summer house will be able to find some peace”, he announces Emilie Praszalowicz, former educational director of the alternative school. The door is open to a freer and nature-oriented education, “Free Field”installed in the Norman cottage of 90 m2 near the town hall and the medieval house Saint-Sulpice-de-Grimbouville (Euros), closed its doors permanently on July 1, 2022 due to a lack of human and financial resources. The micro business had been closed since the start of the 2021 school year.
contact with nature
A group of parents met in 2016 and opened the private, contract-free school in 2018 with two full-time employees and a subsidy. It was at its peak during the health crisis multi-age class had one twenty students from 3 to 9 years. The day the children had time “autonomous learning in contact with nature” and also times to learn at their own pace the compulsory skills, reading, writing or maths. A method full of benefits on cognitive abilities according to the observation of Émilie Praszalowicz:
The child spends one or two hours playing in mud, and after that his math performance is very good. I think the right hormones, fun and enthusiasm, are good for learning. The children had very, very good results.
Lack of financial and human resources
However lack of funds and leaders very quickly made itself felt, and after a year the salaried director was exhausted. “This democratic school required a huge investment. “Architect by profession, Émilie Praszalowicz then puts aside her activity, after parental leave, to “take up the torch” as a volunteer and is joined by three volunteers, the second year. “One person signed the official papers for the rector’s office, and I was the educational manager. »
As she herself educated two of her children in school, the mother of the family had been educated in one “forest school” nature oriented. In the third year, the four volunteers continued the teaching.
But the sinews of war are money. We have always had a lack of funding and wanted to keep tuition fees as low as possible. Alternative non-contract schools have no subsidies and there are changing laws that are getting harder and harder to keep up with.
Unfortunately, “everyone individually in 2021 had to go a different way”: relocation, maternity, need for paid employment… As the association is unable to pay people, Free field suspend school for a year. The creation of a Montessori school is even considered. But the family collective fails to reform a team. “So we made the decision to return the keys,” says the former manager. But it is a successful experience. There were good times with children and parents, from opening to closing, and extraordinary meetings. »
What will become of the summer house?
When the school closes its doors, what is the future of the summer house, the municipality’s property? City council member Julien Dieulle replies: “There is no concrete project yet, we are discussing it in the city council. “Previously, the cottage was rented out to the restaurant “La chaumière aux cigognes”, closed in 2015. The elected officials are considering the installation of a craftsman or a leisure activity (notice to those interested): “There is a view of the valley is a small frame and there are many educational activities in Saint-Sulpice. “While waiting for a permanent resident, the summer house with the common room is rented out for events. The municipality is naturally disappointed that the school is closing, because “it is always good to have caring people who start non-profit projects for the benefit of the community”.
During the break, many parents of students rearranged their schedules raise their children at home, and shared “time for regular exchanges between families”. Finally, this solution also works for them:
We realized that we were very happy. That we didn’t necessarily need an alternative school, but an alternative to the school.
Remaining active, the Champ Libre association will continue to develop educational projects. She also looking for a piece of forest to rent to organize activities which could also be open to outside children. Thomas Collignon, Émilie Praszalowicz, Angélique Ballue, Adèle Tabouelle and Émilie Rochelle are its leaders on an equal footing. They are not done surprising with their original teaching methods: “And we are not sure about reopening a new school in a few years ! »
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