Blue Oak School

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Blue Oak School
1436 Polk Street, 1272 Hayes Street
Napa, California
United States
Coordinates 38°17′56″N 122°17′25″W / 38.2990°N 122.2902°W / 38.2990; -122.2902Coordinates: 38°17′56″N 122°17′25″W / 38.2990°N 122.2902°W / 38.2990; -122.2902
Type Independent school
Established 2002
Head of school Jennifer de Forest
Grades K–8
Mascot Bobcats
Renovated 2001–2002

Blue Oak School is a private K-8 independent elementary school focused on progressive education. The school was founded in 2002 and is located in Napa, California. The school's curriculum is centered on a progressive project-based learning program, with the goal of teaching children how to think and become lifelong learners. Students at the school share large tables rather than personal desks in order to encourage the spirit of community and working together collaboratively. They are evaluated on their overall performance and collection of work as well as occasional quizzes in math and science to meet benchmarks rather than being given standardized tests. Parents of students receive narrative reports on their child's learning that summarize progress toward goals set by the student and parent at the beginning of each term. Traditional grades are only given on middle school math. The school's curriculum places a strong emphasis on arts and music. The school has approximately 26 teachers and 175 students with an average class size of 18 students.[1]

School site and building[edit]

Washington Primary School postcard, c. 1910
Washington Primary School facade in 1994, prior to restoration

The school restored and occupied an historic schoolhouse, winning an award for the preservation of the building and its sustainable design, including the first use of a geothermal heat pump system by a California school. The building at 1436 Polk Street was originally the Washington Primary School, designed by Napa architect Luther Turton and built in 1909. The site had been used beginning in 1879 for the one-room Polk Street School. From 1933 to 1947 the building was the site of the Manual Arts & Sciences School, where home economics classes were taught. The building was renamed Polk Street School from 1948 to 1950. In 1953 the school was converted to a county office building, housing the planning commission and public works staff. The building had most recently housed the Napa County Agricultural Commissioner and the University of California Cooperative Extension before falling into disrepair in the 1990s When the County offices were closed in the early 1990s, the building had deteriorated and was scheduled for demolition. Blue Oak School bought the property in March 2000.[2] The building was renovated and named Blue Oak School, opening its doors in the Fall of 2002. As part of the renovation, the heating, ventilating, and air conditioning system utilized a geothermal ground-source heat pump. The contractor claims that "this project represents the first use of a geothermal system in an educational setting in the state of California."[3] The School received a Merit Award from the Napa County Landmarks Preservation Action Committee in 2003 for restoring the building to its original use, preserving much of the original structure, and use of sustainable methods such as the geothermal system.[4]

History and heads of school[edit]

Middle school campus
Middle school campus

Blue Oak School was founded in 2002, with 73 students during its first year. Scott Duyan was the founding head of school.[5] A kindergarten through 4th grade Lower School opened the first year; a middle school campus was founded in 2005 and an additional parcel on Hayes Street was acquired by 2009, when Duyan lef t.[6] In early 2009, Duyan was followed by Hal Hensler, director of the middle school and a former minor league baseball player in the 1970s, who served as acting head until he was appointed the second head of school in December 2009.[6] When Hensler resigned in March 2011, David Drinkwater was appointed interim head.[7] In December 2011, Jennifer de Forest of the Calhoun School in New York City was named the next head of school, effective July 1, 2012.[8] Then, in 2015, de Forest left her position as head of school, and Richard Marracino was named interim head in her place.


The school now has about 175 students from kindergarten to 8th grade on two campuses in downtown Napa. There is a faculty of twenty-six. Blue Oak School is accredited by the Western Association of Schools & Colleges[9] and is a provisional member of the California Association of Independent Schools.[10]


The tuition for Blue Oak during the 2011–12 year was $19,544 (USD) with 52% of students receiving partial or full financial aid. The school supports itself through tuition, donations and endowment growth, rather than taxes or church contributions. The school also hosts an annual wine auction to raise money. To help with the substantial tuition, Blue Oak offers a sliding-scale that enables families to pay based on what’s deemed appropriate for their income.[1]


  1. ^ a b Dills, Isabelle (January 22, 2012). "Blue Oak School marks first decade". Napa Valley Register. Napa, CA: Lee Enterprises, Inc. Retrieved January 22, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Blue Oak School". The Calistoga Avenue Historic Landmark District. Napa County Historical Society. Retrieved January 8, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Blue Oak School". McCracken & Woodman. Retrieved January 8, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Blue Oak School Receives Preservation Award". Awards – November 2003. California Construction. Retrieved January 8, 2012. 
  5. ^ Hoffman, Natalie (February 20, 2009). "Blue Oak's head of school, Scott Duyan, moves on". Napa Valley Register. Retrieved January 8, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b Hoffman, Natalie (December 15, 2009). "Blue Oak names Hensler to top post". Napa Valley Register. Retrieved January 8, 2012. 
  7. ^ Register staff (March 16, 2011). "Blue Oak School appoints interim head of school". Napa Valley Register. Retrieved January 8, 2012. 
  8. ^ "Blue Oak School taps new leader". Napa Valley Register. November 7, 2011. Retrieved January 8, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Directory of Schools". Western Association of Schools & Colleges. Retrieved January 8, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Blue Oak School". California Association of Independent Schools. Retrieved January 8, 2012. 

External links[edit]