Beginning in the upcoming 2019-2020 school year, Belle Meade Montessori School — which opened its doors to upper grades a dozen years ago in 2007 and received full accreditation in 2014 — is going to expand its educational services to include primary and elementary students, ages 3 to 11.
The Sperryville school stated that the expansion to the lower grades will provide families an alternative option to public and charter schools in Rappahannock County and the surrounding areas and add to the robust educational options already available to middle and high school students.
“We look forward to having new students and families grow with us through this expansion to primary- and elementary-level education,” said school owner and board chair Susan Hoffman, who holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Smith College, a Master’s in Education from Harvard, and Doctor of Education from Johns Hopkins University.
As a result of the expansion, Belle Meade will he hiring one elementary teacher and one primary teacher, in addition to hiring an aide for each level, Hoffman told the Rappahannock News this week.
“We are converting a residential dwelling on the school property to school use,” she answered, when asked about required physical space. “The main level will be the elementary program; the primary program will be on the lower level. Both levels have ready access to the outdoors.”
Currently, Hoffman said, Belle Meade has 20 students in its middle and high school.
“We would like to increase our upper school to 25,” she told the News. “We would be pleased with at least 10 students in primary and in elementary.”
Asked how big a need there was for the educational expansion at this time, Hoffman stated: “At the moment, Rappahannock County has no Montessori primary or elementary program. Our school would serve the continuum for preschool through high school.
“Since Head Start was not funded in our county, we are part of the Early Childhood consortium,” she added.
Belle Meade’s new primary level will offer educational services for children ages 3 to 6.
Young children, it was pointed out, spend the day developing their imaginations and spatial awareness. Physical activities are preferably held outdoors, and students engage in self-guided work.
“The classroom is a colorful, tactile experience where young minds engage in art, building and linguistic development,” explained the school, located on F.T. Valley Road. “Students cultivate independence, coordination, responsibility and positive work habits.”
The new elementary level will offer services for children ages 6 to 11.
“Older children spend the day developing their social skills and academic interests. Physical activities are preferably held outdoors, including swimming, hiking, field sports, gardening and animal husbandry. Short group instructions introduce students to academic concepts while still offering time to pursue personal interests with one-on-one guidance from teachers.”
As Hoffman explained it: “Our students not only benefit from highly experienced teachers but also spend time with animals, gardens and nature. We are dedicated to providing children with hands-on learning experiences where students can work, play, grow and form lasting relationships.”
Remarked parent Kathryn Hughes: “Belle Meade has completely changed our son’s educational experience for the better. Every day my son comes home from school excited to share what he learned and the projects he’s working on. He has gained so much confidence in his abilities.”
The mission of Belle Meade is to provide a Montessori educational experience that includes individual responsibility as well as social and environmental consciousness through experiential learning. It’s head of school John Glass holds a B.S. degree from Brigham Young University in Education and recently completed AMI/NAMTA Adolescent Orientation at Hershey, Ohio, in 2018.
For more information, contact Glass at (540) 987-8970 or visit www.bellemeadeschool.org.