Blue Ridge Montessori School is a private institution off U.S. 221 near the Lynchburg border. The bigger school is planned to be built on about 18 acres off Thomas Jefferson Road and is scheduled to break ground in the spring or summer of 2017.
The current school, at 6,000 square feet, has 108 children from 6 weeks of age to sixth grade, up from 46 students in 2009. The school was established in 1985 and has been located in three different places since its inception, all due to its growth.
“We built this current property in 2009, and our lease runs out in 2019, and three years ago, we started talking about finding a permanent home,” Head of School Robin Boling said.
Right now the school still is in the design phase, but the idea is to transition everyone out of the current school in 2018.
The project has a price tag of about $6 million. Most of the property was purchased with the school’s cash funds, about $275,000; a capital campaign will kick off in January to raise money for construction, additional playgrounds and the purchase of the curriculum for the new school.
Boling is hoping to raise $500,000 for the capital campaign. So far, about $300,000 has been set aside for construction costs.
Boling and other staff have worked with Virginia Community Capital Inc. for a short-term loan, which included soft construction costs for site plans. They also are working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development program, which offers low-interest, long-term loans to projects that help improve the community. Groundbreaking is contingent on the process of this loan, which will cover the majority of costs, Boling said.
Krista Currier said her 8-year-old son Joshua started at the school in April. She tried homeschooling and private school before finally finding what she calls the “perfect fit” for her son.
“He learned differently from other kids, and two years ago, he was diagnosed with dyslexia. He struggled in school, felt defeated and it affected his self esteem. The teachers and staff were so nice, but with the rigorous structure, he got so lost, and it got to the point that he hated school.”
Now at the Montessori school, Joshua is reading all of the time. “He doesn’t have dyslexia; he just needed to learn differently,” she said. “I want my son to have the best chance. I don’t want him labeled. It has been life-changing for my son and I. To be a 6-year-old and not be able to read, that’s pretty significant. That does something to you.”
Currier plans to keep her son at the school as long as possible. “I will sacrifice everything to keep him there. We got rid of cable, made lifestyle changes and I will continue to do that because it’s important to me,” she said.
Tina Wood, whose 8-year-old daughter Skylar attends the school, said she likes there is no Standards of Leaning testing or homework for the students.
“I listen to parents a lot, and they complain about the SOLs and how it stresses their kids out, and we have found it’s a good thing not having them. It’s been a good thing for our family. We don’t have to come home and do piles of homework.”
Skylar gravitates to history and art so she can keep learning those things if she chooses and build on those skills. She also is already learning Spanish as a foreign language.