A group of Hillsdale alumni have partnered with the college to open a classical liberal arts school in metro-Detroit this fall — the first of its kind in the area.
Tyler Horning, an ’06 alumnus and president of the school’s board, began to garner support for Ivywood Classical Academy after noticing a gap in Detroit’s education alternatives.
“I was looking for schools for my kids, and none of them were the right fit,” Horning said in an interview. “There are things missing in public education that a classical education can fill — things that are necessary for our democracy.”
Horning, along with alumni Jim Musgrave ’09 and Troy Morris ’07, formed the school’s project team and reached out to Hillsdale’s Barney Charter Initiative, which will provide the school’s curriculum. A location has not been determined, but Horning said the team is looking in Plymouth, Livonia, and Westland.
Though Ivywood will have only K‑5 classes when it opens, Horning said he hopes the program will continue to grow and expand to eventually include a middle school and a high school.
Hillsdale’s rigorous, virtues-based education will be the foundation of Ivywood’s, Musgrave said. It will focus on the “whole person,” rather than just preparing students for an exam. The Barney curriculum will lay a foundation in history, literature, math, and science, along with traditional electives “with a classical twist,” Musgrave said.
“That’s what I loved about Hillsdale,” Morris said. “Learning for the sake of learning instead of just learning to pass a test. We want to really challenge the status quo and ask: Why am I at school? Is it really just to get good grades? Or am I learning this stuff for a purpose? And what Hillsdale allowed me to see is there’s a reason students need to take these courses. It paints the entire picture.”
Ivywood will be unique among similar classical schools because it will be a tuition-free public school. Enrollment will be phased, and a waitlist will develop based on spots available. Morris said giving the community access to Ivywood’s classical education is a fundamental part of the school’s mission.
“Not everyone has the resources to go to Hillsdale College, so allowing access to everyone is a big part of why we’re doing this. Any kind of background needs to have access to this,” Morris said.
Horning said Ivywood is a “grassroots experiment” that has already been received favorably by northwest Wayne County. Horning’s team hasn’t started advertising the school yet, but more than 130 parents have expressed interest in enrollment.
“That was just by word of mouth,” Horning said. “It just goes to show that we are creating a school for a specific need in our community.”
Central Michigan University granted Ivywood its charter for the 2019 – 20 school year in December, which means Ivywood will operate outside of a traditional public school district while still remaining open to public enrollment. The school was authorized to open with 336 students, and Musgrave believed they will fill those spots easily.
“Parents want this back-to-the-basics model of education,” Musgrave said, “One that encourages virtues like self-government, respect, and excellence.”
Horning said Ivywood’s next step is staff selection and training. Ivywood’s teacher-led classrooms will use the “Socratic method,” relying on Hillsdale’s educational philosophy to engage students. Hillsdale students looking to teach after college should apply to Ivywood, Horning said, especially if they want to work in an environment in which “students want and love to learn.”
“If you want a life-changing career, go be a teacher,” Horning said. “Because teachers make an impact every day. Watching that transformation is a rare, satisfying thing worth pursuing.”