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New private school set to open in Fargo this fall to be 'rooted in ancient Greek educational philosophy,' leader says

Leaders said Capstone Classical Academy will welcome diverse students of all faiths.

Architectural design of Capstone Classical Academy.jpg
Architectural design of Capstone Classical Academy.
Special to The Forum
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FARGO — A new private school plans to launch in the metro area later this year, touting a "classical Christian program."

Capstone Classical Academy is private, religious and tuition-based, a brainchild of local business-minded people and educators.

With the first day of classes set to begin on Aug. 23, the school will focus on Pre-K-6 grades, according to the company’s website. Area residents involved in the school’s founding are “actively pursuing acquisition of property in southwest Fargo for a building site,” according to the school’s website.

On its Facebook page, Capstone lists the current address as 3910 25th St. S., the site of Antioch Church that was formerly United Methodist Church. Classes for younger students will be held there.

The school will have two campuses, which will allow it to keep up with growing enrollment until the final campus is finished, possibly by autumn 2025.

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Hoping to enroll 560 students, founders believe the school will offer a distinct method of education not offered by any other area school.

During the first week of enrollment, the school had 17 applications. It will be opening this fall even if enrollment figures aren't what they are hoping for, said headmaster Paul Fisher.

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Paul Fisher, the Headmaster of Capstone Classical Academy in Fargo, answers questions from the media about how the new classical school will run during a press conference on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, at Antioch Church in Fargo.
Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum

One additional grade will be added each year after opening, according to the school’s website.

“Capstone will bring a full Pre-K through grade 12 classical Christian program, noted for its educational excellence, to North Dakota for the first time,” the school’s website reported .

Capstone Classical Academy is listed as a nonprofit organization registered with the North Dakota Secretary of State on April 6, 2021. It is also reported as the first private classical school affiliated with Hillsdale College as a K-12 Member School, according to its website. The affiliation is also currently free of charge, according to Fisher.

Hillsdale College will provide faculty, staff and board members with annual training on classical education, and will provide curriculum along with ongoing support, visits, and evaluations, according to a press release from Capstone.

Hillsdale College is a private college of 1,400 students in southern Michigan that describes itself as a conservative liberal arts “nonsectarian Christian” school. Justice Clarence Thomas likened Hillsdale to a “shining city on a hill” for its devotion to “liberty as an antecedent of government, not a benefit from government,” according to The New York Times .

A post from Capstone Classical Academy on its Facebook page gave an example of what classical education is: “How does a classical education relate to America's founding? The majority of our founding fathers were classically educated; they learned Latin, Greek, and studied the seven liberal arts in preparation for life.”

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Fisher said the best definition of a classical education is the cultivation of wisdom and virtue through the study of liberal arts.

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Ron Robson, a founding member and board president of Capstone Classical Academy, speaks to the media about the new classical school that will teach Pre-K-12 students during a press conference on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, at Antioch Church in Fargo.
Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum

During a press conference on Friday, Jan. 21, Fisher said the school is aiming for a diverse student body and is welcoming of students from all faiths.

When asked what the school's policy would be toward controversial topics such as critical race theory, Fisher said the concept has no room in the lower grades, but all controversial topics will be discussed in upper grades.

"If you don't agree with it, you have to talk about it, and if you agree with it, then of course you will be talking about it," Fisher said.

The inability for society to have a civil discussion about any controversial topic is a problem that needs to be addressed, he said.

"The goal is not to indoctrinate students; the goal is to help them to think clearly and to think logically," he said. "Humanities are at the core of what we do."

The school’s mission statement is: “Capstone Classical Academy engages students to acquire wisdom, cultivate virtue, and pursue rigorous academic study within a Christian worldview. Our students will study what is good, what is true, and what is beautiful for the purpose of glorifying God and benefiting their community.”

The school is not simply Christian, and it is "rooted in ancient Greek educational philosophy," Fisher said, adding that with tuition assistance programs he wants any family from any social status to feel comfortable and welcomed at the school.

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Al Berg, a founding member of Capstone Classical Academy, introduces the basics of what the new classical school will be to the press on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, at Antioch Church in Fargo.
Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum

Tuition prices are set at $8,950 per year, or $746 a month. Families who enroll their children must sign up for automatic payments through the school’s tuition management solution, according to the school’s website.

Founding members of Capstone Classical Academy in Fargo include Ron Robson, board president, who has experience with the F5 Project and Valley Christian Counseling Center in Fargo; Terinne Berg, former superintendent of Park Christian School, is listed as the board secretary; and Larry Nygard, president of Crown Development and former president of Roers Development, is the board treasurer.

Additional founding members include Dawn Robson, founder and owner of Refresh Equine Assisted Learning; Al Berg, founder and owner of Premier Benefits Group; June Nygard, former marketing and admissions for an unlisted Christian school; Luke Robson, a Hillsdale College graduate and University of Notre Dame Law School student; Rachelle Lee, who works at Sanford Health; and Chris Lee, executive vice president and chief financial officer at Gate City Bank.

A school with the same name began operating in 2018 in Utah as a public charter school, but it was shut down two years later due to financial difficulties and inability to pay rent.

Fisher, who has worked with classical Christian schools for a decade and in Christian education for 25 years, said there was no correlation between the two schools and that Fargo’s Capstone Classical Academy is “completely independent” of any other school by the same or similar name.

C.S. Hagen is an award-winning journalist currently covering the education and activist beats mainly in North Dakota and Minnesota.
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