Hillsdale College alumni are part­nering with the Barney Charter School Ini­tiative to open Ivywood Clas­sical Academy, a public charter school with a liberal arts cur­riculum, in Metro-Detroit. Pexels

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.”