The normally bright smiles at Community Montessori School sparkle a bit more this year after the program realized a goal two decades in the making – the entire school from toddlers to eighth graders now share one campus.
Founded in 1970, CMS flourished for a quarter of a century serving preschoolers through sixth graders.
In 1996 it added a seventh and eighth grade (Montessori Middle School of Kentucky) at a separate location from its home on Crestwood Drive in south Lexington.
For another 20 years, school leaders endeavored to bring the two schools together. First, in 2004, they purchased 13 acres on Stone Road and five years later completed a building for MMSK.
Last year, CMS sold the Crestwood Drive property and broke ground in May for an addition to the Stone Road building. In August, CMS opened the doors to a gleaming, expanded building with a school future just as bright.
“It’s hard to put in words how much this means to our community,” said Katie Toffey, Development and Marketing director, who began as a parent at CMS in 2000.
“We have this beautiful building where our community is all together and can support one another – staff, students and families.”
The space – both indoors and out – is worth sharing. The new wing adds 5,000 square feet to the main building for 13,000 square feet of room.
The building is anchored by a large, airy community room flanked by classrooms for toddlers (18 months to 3 years) and Upper Elementary (fourth through sixth grade).
The new addition houses two classrooms for the primary level (3-6 year-olds) and one for Lower Elementary (first through third grade). MMSK (seventh and eighth graders) occupies the original 1920 Homestead on the campus.
The main area also includes a full commercial kitchen used by students for various projects. (Middle schoolers cook a community lunch each Friday and the toddlers bake every day!)
CMS practices land-based education for all students on its grounds that include a stream, a barn, chicken coop, apple orchard, apiary (bees), monarch butterfly waystation, compost bin, flower gardens, blackberry and asparagus patches, plus a picnic area and fenced-in playground.
The building and the grounds serve the Montessori method that drives the school.
The goal is to foster self-directed activity with hands-on, age-appropriate activities for children who also learn grace and courtesy.
This educational approach focuses on the development of the whole child.
The method so impressed Erin Stevenson when she enrolled her daughter as a primary student that she eventually left her position as a UK education professor, completed her adolescent Montessori teacher training and now teaches in the middle school program at CMS.
In July, she will become Head of School, working closely with Anne Gray, Education Director.
“That was a good leap for me because I look forward to coming to work every day,” Stevenson said.
“I’m passionate about seeing the school grow, sticking to the Montessori philosophy and using all 13 acres of our campus to do that as well as we can.”