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Ruch Outdoor Community School features unique, close-knit campus

Ruch hosts grades K-8, with a current total enrollment of 181 students. For families looking for a close-knit, out-of-the-box learning experience, it could be just the ticket. (KTVL/Genevieve Grippo)

For families looking for a close-knit, out-of-the-box learning experience, Ruch Outdoor Community School may be just the ticket.

It's there that students combine class time indoors and out, while learning in a personal environment.

"Because of our small size, it's a real community," said Julie Barry, Principal of the school. "The teachers know every kid. I know every kid. It's easier to make connections when you know them, their strengths, what they like to do outside of school.""

Ruch hosts grades K-8, with a current total enrollment of 181 students. While the number makes for smaller class sizes and individualized attention, it has also posed a problems in the past.

"Unfortunately, we've been up for closure on a couple of occasions," said Barry. "We need to keep our enrollment over 200 in order for us to be sustainable."

Barry said Ruch has to have enough students to make running the school cost effective. The added pressure means they're looking to recruit at least 30 students throughout southern Oregon.

Though the school may have a small enrollment, the size of the campus is expansive. The acres of greenery surrounding the school allows a multitude of opportunities for teachers to take their classrooms outdoors-- an experience that convinced teacher Aaron Fox to make the 40-minute trek from his home in Ashland twice daily.

Fox is in the midst of his first year teaching at the school. He's spent 16 years in the Medford School District, and transferred to Ruch when he realized how unique the school is.

"Every staff member here knows every student's name and story," said Fox, who teaches middle school social studies. "And you can't say that about any other school-- especially a middle school."

Fox said he tries to take his classes outdoors everyday, as long as weather permits.

"Today we were outside reading, we were studying history outdoors," said Fox. "Yesterday we were outdoors in our nature park that we have on campus, sketching."

Outside class time could ranges anywhere from a 20-minute reading session to overnight field trips, like the rafting trip scheduled later in the school year.

Outdoor opportunities help kids get out of the classroom-- especially on their newly implemented 'Screen Free Fridays'-- a once-weekly program where classes are taught primarily without the use of screens.

Ruch Outdoor Community School features year-round enrollment for students across southern Oregon. Any families looking to learn more about the school are encouraged to attend their open house on Thursday, Feb. 15. The event runs from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at 156 Upper Applegate Road, Jacksonville, OR.

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