Want your kid to have a radically different educational experience, but don’t want to pay for it?

Well, the Tallgrass Sudbury School, a tiny democratically run private school in Riverside, will hold a lottery this summer to award five new students full ride scholarships to the school for the next four years. 

Currently, the maximum annual tuition at Tallgrass Sudbury is $7,400 although the school charges tuition on a sliding scale depending on a family’s income. The lowest tuition current families pay is approximately $1,800. 

Tallgrass Sudbury School was founded nine years ago. It is located inside the Riverside United Methodist Church at 82 Woodside Road and has 22 students ranging in age from 5 to 18.

“We want to have a diverse and thriving community,” said Helen Tornquist, one of four staff members at the school, explaining why the school is offering the scholarships. “We wanted to make it accessible to all families no matter what their income is.”

The idea for a having a lottery came from a Sudbury school in Ohio that has used a lottery to boost enrollment in recent years. Tornquist hopes it will have the same result here.

“We’d like to get to like 30 to 35 students within the next year or two,” Tornquist said. “The more people who are in the school, the more people come to the school, and just the more thriving and exciting it is.”

Tallgrass is the only Sudbury school in Illinois and one of about 50 worldwide. At the school, as in all Sudbury schools, all decisions are made democratically. Students and staff have equal votes. 

Students decide what they want to study and plan their own learning. There are no formal teachers or classrooms. The four adults working at the school are not called teachers, but are referred to as staff members. They help facilitate and guide learning for the students. There are no tests, mandatory homework or a set curriculum.

Students vote at the end of the school year to determine if they want to rehire the staff members.

To enter the lottery, prospective students must visit the school and complete an enrollment interview by July 15 and should state their intent to apply for the scholarships during the enrollment interview.

Applicants need not submit any kind of financial information to the school. The lottery program is open to students age 4 through 18. Winners of the lottery will be notified by Aug. 1. 

The lottery is only open to students who do not currently attend Tallgrass Sudbury School.