Montessori School of Northern Virginia is opening a new campus for preschool-age children in September on the site of the former Valley Brook preschool at 3433 Rose Lane in Falls Church (off Annandale Road between Roundtree Park and Beech Tree Elementary School).
The new facility will serve up to 90 students, says Head of School Betsy Mitchell. There will be one classroom for two-year-olds and two or three for students age 3 to 5.
The Montessori School’s Hillwood campus (6820 Pacific Lane, between Little River Turnpike and Braddock Road near Poe Middle School) has 157 students age 2 to 12. Demand was exceeding capacity for the youngest children, Mitchell says. “We were turning people away.”
The Montessori educational philosophy, developed by Italian educator Maria Montessori (1872-1952), is about nurturing children’s natural love of learning, encouraging creativity and exploration, teaching respect for the environment and other cultures, and self-directed learning. The curriculum tends to be unstructured, two or three grade levels are usually grouped together in the same classroom.
“Children in a Montessori school begin to own their education. They know they’re in charge of their learning,” Mitchell says. “We try to keep that curiosity alive.” While some Montessori schools do not have homework or tests, “We do a little of that so they are prepared for what comes next.”
The application deadline for the 2010-11 school year was Jan. 15, but the new campus will be accepting applications into the spring, Mitchell says. Admissions decisions are based on parents’ applications and interviews with children and their parents and include such factors as whether a child is ready for a Montessori environment. That means “curious, independent learners with some degree of self-discipline.”
Tuition for the current year ranges from $7,941 for 3 and 4-year-olds for half days (8:45-11:45 a.m.) to $10,815 for children ages 6-8 for full days (8:45 a.m.-3 p.m.). There are additional costs for extended-day programs. And because the school is structured as a non-profit cooperative, each family must contribute 25 hours of work to the school each year.
The new campus will have “an amazing playground with a natural play environment,” Mitchell says, possibly including such features as a tree on its side for climbing, a water pump that feeds a stream bed, grass, hills, valleys, a sunken fort, an art area, and terraced flower and vegetable gardens.