Rising from the Ashes

Community rallies behind Meadowbrook Waldorf School to rebuild after fire


When a tragic fire gutted the Meadowbrook Waldorf School (MWS) in July, the Richmond community immediately knew that rebuilding the beloved school would be in their future.

The school, founded in 1979, educates over 140 students ages pre-K to grade 8 through a unique, disciplinary curriculum approach. Situated on 28 acres of beautiful landscape, MWS unites academics, arts, movement, practical work, and a deep respect for the natural world.

While the cause of the fire that destroyed the school is still under investigation, the community response has been uplifting. With various school districts providing furniture like desks and chairs, retail chains like Home Depot and Staples donating essential supplies, and local businesses and organizations hosting fundraising events to benefit their GoFundMe page, which has already exceeded its initial goal of $150,000, MWS is on the fast track to reopening.

In the meantime, since the school year started on September 4, classes have been held at the South Road School in South Kingstown, where they plan to stay for one year with the option to extend their stay month by month. Beth Riungu, Development Coordinator of MWS, says “the rebuild team hopes to be swinging hammers in January 2019 and moving back in January 2020.” MWS plans to reconstruct on the remaining foundation with the potential for an extension.

Since going back to school, MWS administrators, teachers, and parents have helped students cope with the loss by sharing stories and artwork with messages of overcoming adversity. Both show students the unexpected opportunities that come with change, courage, and kindness. Riungu is grateful for all of the volunteers – including the professionals leading the rebuild process – for their dedication and support.

With regards to the specifics of the rebuild, Riungu assures that student safety will come first, and any recommendations resulting from the fire’s investigation will be incorporated. The school will also not rush any decisions about purchases: “The Waldorf education strives to surround children with beauty and organic materials that stand the test of time,” says Riungue. “What we buy now will last for generations of students.”

“MWS is a community [and] the students look forward to being with their teachers and classmates, playing at recess, and celebrating the same traditions they have always known,” expresses Riungu. To them, MWS wasn’t lost – just the building.