Sea Rose Montessori Co-op School will hold an open house. . Photo Credit: Jodi Paquin Photography

The new, parent-lead Sea Rose Montessori Co-op School for elementary aged students is preparing to open at St. Mary’s Church in Portsmouth, said Suzanne McDonald, a member of the school’s board of founding families. The school, which will be available to families living or working on Aquidneck Island and the surrounding region, will follow the Montessori method of education and emphasize matching kids’ lifestyles to those of working professionals.

The school is accepting students ages four and a half through six – students must be turning five years old by a December 31st. “If you’re interested in signing up your child at Sea Rose, you should do so ASAP,” McDonald said. The early enrollment deadline is at the end of June. The school has space for just a few more students, and organizers are also looking for several more teaching assistants to apply.  For more information visit https://searosemontessori.com/

“For next year or going forward, we do have a limited capacity,” McDonald said. “So if you have a 3.5-year-old now, it would be good to get in contact with us and express intent so that we can plan.”

The formation of the school is the result of several months of hard work by career-minded parents seeking a solution for work-life balance. “It’s been coming together since January when a group of parents, mostly moms, got together and said ‘let’s do it!’”. After many meetings, planning, and searching for teachers, the families were able to form Sea Rose Montessori Co-op School offering full-day year-round schooling that allows parents to better balance career and family.

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McDonald said the founding families are excited to have secured teachers for the school who are experienced in Montessori. They’re also excited about the opportunity to utilize the parish house space at St. Mary’s – a convenient, central location. “The building is about four years old,” McDonald said. “It has floor-to-ceiling windows, a community garden, a labyrinth and 70+ acres of Aquidneck Land Trust preserved space.” Though the church is hosting the school, it will have no religious affiliation.

In addition to following the Montessori method of education, which focuses on things like sensorial learning, one-to-one teacher instruction, and working in small groups independently, the learning experience at Sea Rose will differ from other elementary schools in key ways.

More outside time for students – a wish that was almost universal among the school’s founding families – will be incorporated, McDonald said. “We want to give an indoor-outdoor experience, and we have a garden and a playground at St. Mary’s that are really nice.”

The school will also place an emphasis on parents and families. “Montessori focuses on the whole child,” McDonald said, “We want to focus on the whole parent and whole family too. Because we’re parent-lead, we have the ability to be sensitive to the other things that parents have going on in their lives and complement that,” she said.

One feature of the school that may help working parents is flexibility in opening and closing times. “We’ll have a soft opening and close,” McDonald said. “Drop off will be anywhere from 8 am and pick-up anywhere before 5 pm.”

Another idea McDonald said the founding families have been discussing is Parent Nights to give parents the opportunity to get to know each other beyond their parental roles. “We think the strength of the community will be in enriching parents as a whole,” McDonald said. “So much of parents’ lives revolve around their kids; we think it will be nice to have a way to engage with other parents and get to know them as people, and figure out ‘what can we do to help each other?’ through networking and mutual education.”

McDonald said Sea Rose will be offering parents the unique ability to contribute to tuition through volunteering. “Rather than asking parents to volunteer, we want to set up something where you can do credit hours for tuition,” she said. “For example, organizing a fundraiser or being the school nurse. Certain things we need help with that they could do while earning credit hours toward their child’s tuition.” McDonald said scholarships could potentially be available next year. 

Though the school is a year-round commitment, McDonald said the organizers are flexible. “We are open to working with parents who do want to take summer’s off and allow them to sublet their space,” she said.  “We want to keep costs as reasonable as we can while compensating our teachers very fairly for their role in shaping future citizens into honorable adults.”

Since the school the school is set-up as a co-op,  tuition cost will go down when enrollment goes up and costs are distributed among families. “Our goal is to keep tuition to $1000 per month for year-round, extended day students,” she said. “We are 99% percent sure we will be able to do that.”

The founding families are working on making several crucial decisions around fundraising. “We’re exploring whether or not we should become a charter school and we’re just waiting for some of the community to coalesce before we make some of these decisions.” They’re also in the process of becoming a 501c3 organization. 

McDonald said eventually they plan to expand their course offerings for older students. “We expect to grow and then intend to look into a middle school and a high school to ensure continuity for our kids,” she said.

Photo Credit: Jodi Paquin Photography

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