Montessori school plans expansion

Montessori school plans expansion

SAVOY — A growing Montessori School of Champaign-Urbana will expand to include a building next door this fall.

Traits of Montessori educatilon include combining pupils together at three different age levels. The school has been serving 130 students ages 3 through 6 (preschool through kindergarten) and will add a lower elementary program for ages 6 through 9 (the same as first through third grade).

Eventually, it will expand to include upper elementary, ages 9 through 12, the equivalent of fourth through sixth grades.

The new building, at 303 Burwash Ave. — a former dentist's office built in the 1970s — is large enough to house both new age groups with a capacity of between 50 and 60 students, administrator Deborah Balsbaugh said.

"We're in no hurry to fill it," she said.

Two fully certified Montessori teachers will oversee the new lower elementary program.

"I can see us going to the junior high level," Balsbaugh said.

The possibility of a Montessori high school is unlikely, Balsbaugh said. But if there is a need, another lower elementary section may be added.

"People have been very interested and excited," she said. "The three-year age span surprises people. It has taken a little bit of explaining."

Following the methods of Maria Montessori, the school directs students while letting them work and learn at their own speed.

"It's self-directed and individualized," Balsbaugh said. "There's no judgment, no grades. You're not putting people in boxes."

There are not scheduled times for each subject area. Instead, students can work on mathematics, language or science for as long as they are engaged.

"So we work it all in, but over the course of the school year," Balsbaugh said. "It's bustling and chaotic but not loud. It's self-directed learning for themselves."

Montessori students will be given the DIBELS reading assessment test and will likely take the TerraNova standardized achievement test, "to be sure we're on the right track," Balsbaugh said. "But we're not teaching to the test. It's going to be more of a reassessment."

The school is currently accepting applications for the new elementary school. Preference is being given to students who have already been enrolled at a Montessori school.

Balsbaugh anticipates there will probably be about 15 students in the new elementary.

"Montessori schools tend to build slowly," she said.

Savoy village officials are reviewing the final plans for the new building at the corner of Burwash and Regency Drive. Construction will begin as soon as approval is given.

A circle drive off of Burwash will be used to prevent traffic jams with parents picking up and dropping off children at the two buildings. A wall that faces Regency Drive will be butted out to increase the building's square footage from its current 3,000.

"The exterior is going to be completely redone," Balsbaugh said.

The new building will have the same kind of security system as the one for the younger ages.

There will be three peaked roofs to make everything balance aesthetically, Balsbaugh said. An atrium in the center of the building is being removed, but the glass in the ceiling will be kept as a kind of skylight.

The first day of school is scheduled for Aug. 18. An open house has not yet been scheduled.

Students will walk over to Burwash Park to use its playground. Eventually, Balsbaugh would like to incorporate a natural play area on the school grounds.

"There will be plenty of parking and green space for kids," Balsbaugh said.

All wooden furniture will be used in the classrooms.

The Montessori School of Champaign-Urbana celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. It has been located at 1403 Regency Drive East for over 25 years. It is parent-owned and governed by a board comprised of parents.

Christine Walsh is editor of The County Star, a News-Gazette community newspaper. For more, visit

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