Exactly one year after local parents and educators received permission to launch a new charter school in Beaufort County, its doors are set to open in August.
Lowcountry Montessori School will open in a temporary home, with a permanent facility to be completed soon after, according to director Amy Horn.
The state-authorized charter school begins classes Aug. 25 in the former E.C. Montessori & Grade School building on Lady's Island. In the coming weeks, Lowcountry Montessori, which is working with a development company, plans to break ground on a permanent site in the town of Port Royal and open the new building in January, Horn said.
"We honestly didn't think we would be able to do this right off the gate, but we found a company willing to work with us," Horn said. "So we are so excited that we will be able to have our own school so soon."
The school is working with Utah-based American Charter Development, which provides financing and development services for charter schools to build facilities. The company bought 8 acres at 749 Broad River Drive, according to school board member Candace Martin.
Construction of an elementary school building, as well as a combined middle and high school building, will begin soon and should be completed by January, Horn said. Students will move there after winter break.
Lowcountry Montessori also plans to eventually add an administrative and multipurpose building to the campus, Horn said.
The total project cost, financed by American Charter, is estimated at $5.5 million, according to Horn.
The school will lease the facilities from the company for about $500,000 per year, with money from its annual state funding, Horn said. Lowcountry Montessori will have the option to purchase the property after five years.
If construction isn't finished on time, the school will continue to use the E.C. Montessori buildings.
E.C. Montessori was forced to close in June after more than 40 years in Beaufort County, largely because of growing competition to provide the teaching method it made popular in northern Beaufort County, school founder Anne Pollitzer has said. Montessori emphasizes a hands-on, "discovery approach" in multi-age classes. Students work at their own pace, often independently.
Lowcountry Montessori has made other preparations in recent months for its inaugural year, Martin said.
It currently has full enrollment, with waiting lists for almost every grade, she said. However, interested families are still encouraged to apply, as some spots could open.
During its first year, the school will serve 250 students in kindergarten through ninth grade, Horn said. It plans to add a grade each year until 12th grade and it reaches an enrollment of 425 students.
Lowcountry Montessori has also hired its teachers and ensured they are trained in the Montessori method, Martin said.
"People need to know this is a tangible school that will soon have its own buildings, and not just an idea anymore," Martin said. "It's all about the vision, and these people have it and have acted on it and have really made this school a reality."
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- New Montessori charter school approved for Beaufort County, July 30, 2013
- Proposed charter school in Beaufort County clears first hurdle, June 12, 2013
- Group files application to open new charter school in Beaufort County, May 8, 2013
- Beaufort County charter school enrollment continues to increase, February 14, 2014
- E.C. Montessori to close; building on Lady's Island for sale, June 11, 2014
- Report: SC charter schools have inadequate access to facilities, amenities, November 17, 2013
- Lowcountry Montessori School
- American Charter Development