The Montessori elementary school doesn’t have a site and classes start on Aug. 20.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
With about a week until classes are scheduled to start, the Montessori Learning Center is scrambling to find a new elementary school site.
The private school – the only one in the county offering a Montessori education to kids up through age 13 – had taught classes out of an L-shaped portable building in Spreckels since 1996. County officials say the building has to be removed by Sept. 1.
(The Center’s pre-school and kindergarten facilities, however, will remain in Salinas.)
The elementary school, which has about 60 students, is located at the corner of Spreckels Boulevard and Hatton Avenue. The building was supposed to be temporary since it doesn’t fit in within Spreckel’s historical guidelines. “Spreckels is a historic district,” says Jim Riley, chairman of the Spreckels Neighborhood Design Review Committee. “In a historic district you can not have any trailers.”
The Monterey County Planning Commission and Design Review Committee extended the school’s permit four times with the caveat that it find a permanent location. But with no new elementary site and the permit set to expire, the school applied for another extension in July. On July 25 the Montessori Learning Center rescinded their application, citing county staff’s recommendation to deny their permit.
“They had 10 years to find another location,” Riley says. “And we’ve renewed it four times already. It has just reached the end of its bureaucratic life.”
Principal and owner Adrii Helgren could not be reached for comment by the >>Weekly’s deadline. Office Manager Louise Parrott says the school will relocate – she won’t say where – and will stay open.
Mike Stone, inspection services manager for Salinas, says the school approached his department about using the site on South Main Street between the First Presbyterian Church and the Quadrangle. Stone says the school would first have to install fire alarms, and city officials say it would take at least a week to process their application. School is scheduled to start Aug. 20.
Mary Duan, who has two boys enrolled at the school, says many parents are concerned. “I frankly don’t know where my children will be going to school,” Duan says. “This is a little disconcerting given the fact that the school is supposed to start in a few weeks.”
The Montessori Learning Center was founded in 1973 based on the philosophy of Italian Maria Montessori, whose major premise was that children are natural learners. The center splits kids into age groups, such as 6 to 9 and 12 to 15. Students are allowed to move freely from the different disciplines, which include the basics of language, math, history, geography and science.
Despite the center’s recent troubles, Duan says Montessori education is superior and she will hold out for a new location. “They don’t teach kids to sit there and learn to take tests,” she says, “which is essentially what public schools do.”