Walton Foundation Planning ‘Independent’ School

The Walmart visitors center in downtown Bentonville.
Credit bentonville.org

The Walton Family Foundation is developing what it is calling an “independent” school in Bentonville for the Northwest Arkansas region, the foundation announced in a press release Thursday.

The release said the school “will also offer a challenging curriculum, small classes, a diverse student body and distinctive architecture.”

Its founding head will be Dr. Clayton Marsh, who as deputy dean of the college at Princeton University has developed new academic courses and programs, has enhanced the liberal arts curriculum, and has encouraged teaching innovation. He also teaches courses.

Marsh will be in charge of all aspects of the school’s development, including curriculum and infrastructure. A native of Kansas City, Missouri, he taught English and coached football and wrestling at another independent school, The Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. He also has practiced law.

Marsh will release a timeline this spring for the school’s opening and grade levels. It is expected at first to serve middle school and high school students.

The school is part of the foundation’s 2020 Home Region Plan, which includes a planned investment of more than $302 million in Northwest Arkansas and the Delta region of Arkansas and Mississippi. Among those plans is expanding high-achieving school options.

“Our planning process helped us assess the current level of accessibility for parents and students to high-performing charter schools and traditional public schools,” said Karen Minkel, Home Region program director at the Walton Family Foundation. “Our assessment also revealed that an independent school would add to the range of quality options available.”

The release said that 68% of Bentonville residents polled said they would support an independent school, with similar percentages in other regional school districts expressing support.

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