Author of Nation’s First Charter Schools Law Visits New Branches Charter Academy

Ember Reichgott Junge, a former Minnesota state senator, and sponsor of the nation’s first charter schools law, visited New Branches Charter Academy today. She was in town to celebrate the 30-year anniversary of the charter school law. New Branches has such a special place in our state’s chartering history, as it was the first charter school in the state of Michigan. 

New Branches Charter Academy grew out of a private, non-sectarian school called The Climbing Tree School, which was formed by a small group of parents and teachers who came together with an idea for an innovative type of school. They wished to provide an alternative to the programs and practices of traditional schools. The Climbing Tree School opened in September of 1971 and was approved by the State Board of Education in December of the same year. 

In January 1994, members of the Climbing Tree community decided to begin working together to form a new charter school. After many months of work on the charter school application and contract, the New Branches’ charter was authorized by Central Michigan University in August 1994. It was one of the first schools in Michigan to receive a charter and was the first school to be approved by the State of Michigan. 

During Ember’s visit today, she was energized to visit the state’s first charter public school and see our progress for Grand Rapids kids. She shared how exciting it was to learn about how far the school has come over the past 28 years. 

“When you see one charter school, you’ve seen one charter school because all charter schools are so unique,” said Reichgott Junge. “I can feel how special this place is by just walking through the hallways, talking to the school leadership and receiving sweet hugs from the students.”

Principal Terry Larkin and Assistant Principal Kristen Crawford were beaming with pride as they toured the school with Riechgott Junge. New Branches has become a staple in the community, and parents continue to recommend their family and friends to become a part of the NBCA community. 

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