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First day of school for Mountain Village Montessori

Teresa Ristow
Evan Dendrinos, a kindergartner at Mountain Village Montessori Charter School, works with teacher Jessica LeBlanc Tuesday on the school's first day of classes.
John F. Russell

Future school site identified

Mountain Village Montessori Charter School leaders announced last week the school will launch a $7 million capital campaign in the near future to fund the purchase of land and construction of a school on Amethyst Drive.

The school has signed a two-year lease with the option to buy for a 25-acre parcel adjacent to Strawberry Park Elementary School owned by Steve Cavanagh.

The lot has creeks and ponds, a horse and hay barn and fields ready for cultivation, welcome characteristics for Montessori leaders, as outdoor education is a strong aspect of Montessori education.

School leaders will raise money to fund the construction of a school that could house 300 students in preschool through eighth grade.

“The property is an amazing opportunity for MCMCS,” said school founder and board chair Kristen Rockford. “With our enrollment numbers at capacity and great community interest in year one, we are already looking to expand our services.”

Hayes said that most charter schools struggle to establish facilities for their schools, often beginning operations in a strip mall or other temporary location.

“We’re really fortunate to have this space,” Hayes said, referring to the Heritage Park building.

Hayes said the school could seek a variety of grants, funding and private donations as part of the capital campaign.

— Inside a lower elementary classroom at Steamboat’s Mountain Village Montessori Charter School Tuesday, students sat in a circle and softly chanted the months of the year and clapped along on their laps.

“June, July, August,” the class said in unison, as 7-year-old Soren stood inside the circle and walked around a small candle representing the sun, surrounded by tongue depressors marking the 12 months of the year.

Tuesday was not only Soren’s first day of class at Steamboat’s new public Montessori charter school, it was also his seventh birthday, and his new class acknowledged the day with a traditional Montessori birthday celebration.

After every walk around the “sun,” Soren showed his classmates a picture of himself.

“It’s each year of their life,” explained Head of School Michael Hayes.

The new school opened for the first day of class Tuesday, with about 140 preschool through fifth-grade aged students.

In Montessori schools, students are split into mixed-age classrooms rather than following typical public school grade levels.

Mountain Village Montessori has six classrooms for the year, including three primary classrooms with 3-year-old through kindergarten-aged students, two lower elementary classes with first-grade through third-grade aged students and one upper elementary class with students that would be in fourth or fifth grade.

“The younger children are getting mentored by the older children,” Hayes said.

In a classroom down the hall from the lower elementary birthday celebration, kindergarten-aged students were busy with a dozen different activities.

One boy was looking at a drawing of Australia, a trio of girls in the corner of the room was looking at books and one young girl was sitting down with a teacher to sort through color tablets.

Montessori classrooms are known for allowing children to use uninterrupted blocks of work time to choose which projects or topics to study. There are no chalkboards or whiteboards, and teachers typically don’t give a lesson to an entire class but instead teach a few students at a time who are choosing to work on a certain topic.

“We call it choice within limits,” Hayes said.

Even though it was only the first day of classes at the charter school, which is housed in a large portion of the former Heritage Christian School building in West Steamboat, students were working independently at tables around the room.

“One of the things I’m struck by is how quickly children work on their own,” Hayes said.

The school is at capacity for the year, with students on a waiting list, but the hallways were relatively calm Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s the honeymoon phase,” Hayes said.

Future school site identified

Mountain Village Montessori Charter School leaders announced last week the school will launch a $7 million capital campaign in the near future to fund the purchase of land and construction of a school on Amethyst Drive.

The school has signed a two-year lease with the option to buy for a 25-acre parcel adjacent to Strawberry Park Elementary School owned by Steve Cavanagh.

The lot has creeks and ponds, a horse and hay barn and fields ready for cultivation, welcome characteristics for Montessori leaders, as outdoor education is a strong aspect of Montessori education.

School leaders will raise money to fund the construction of a school that could house 300 students in preschool through eighth grade.

“The property is an amazing opportunity for MCMCS,” said school founder and board chair Kristen Rockford. “With our enrollment numbers at capacity and great community interest in year one, we are already looking to expand our services.”

Hayes said that most charter schools struggle to establish facilities for their schools, often beginning operations in a strip mall or other temporary location.

“We’re really fortunate to have this space,” Hayes said, referring to the Heritage Park building.

Hayes said the school could seek a variety of grants, funding and private donations as part of the capital campaign.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow


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