Local Montessori school safely continues in-person learning
December 15, 2020
While the pandemic has moved many classes toward an online education program, the Montessori School of C-U (MSCU) has made significant efforts to be able to safely and effectively continue school in-person.
According to Kerry Rossow, assistant head of the school, everyone had a lot of concerns and fears about keeping everyone safe while making their education as normal as possible. She also said students, staff and parents have been amazing at following safety protocols.
Surfaces are disinfected multiple times a day, masks are worn at all times except when spaced out with dividers for lunch, children are socially distanced, temperatures are checked and days are mostly spent learning outside, all to maintain a safer environment.
They have also created cohorts, which are groups of students that only interact with each other and no other groups. There has been no spread of COVID-19, but in the event of one, it’s less likely to spread beyond the infected cohort.
“The way it’s set up now is if someone were to sadly get COVID, we would only close down that room. It’s an effort to keep spread down,” Rossow said. “The goal is to have no outbreaks, but if it were to happen, we would hope that we would be able to contain it to a very small number.”
One worry for Christine Krupp, a directress at MSCU, was that social interactions wouldn’t be as easy to create. She was happy to have some of these worries dispelled.
“Despite masks and even with our reminders to not touch friends, I have watched friendships bloom and I’m blown away,” Krupp said. “The social relationships and friendships came even with distancing, so I’m pretty amazed.”
With some added changes to ensure safety, the school is still very hands-on and active.
“In our classroom, everything here is didactic material, you learn through the work. Maria Montessori wrote, ‘you learn through the hand’, but it means you’re experiencing it,“ Krupp said.
In addition to a very tactile education, students are put in mixed age classes, allowing students to learn at their own pace in carefully set-up environments. The directresses can create an individualized learning plan for each child and meet the child where they need it until they are ready to move on to the next thing.
“It’s not top down, it’s not what I know and what I have to offer to the children, it’s not even how I can change the children,” Krupp said. “Instead, I just join them. I’m a facilitator, and it’s a path of learning I join them with. I create the environment and they come to learn from it.”
Kathleen Booth, a graduate from the University and business analyst with the Grainger College of Engineering, said the mixed age classrooms are great for her child.
“It has been really good for my kid to be challenged in all areas because he can go to the point where it is challenging to him,” Booth said. “He is not held back or dragged forward, which keeps everything at the right level. The multi-age has been really good, it does teach leadership and interactions with people that are different than you.”
Independence is another thing Rossow said they take great pride in.
“We do nothing for them that they can’t do themselves, which includes things like, we don’t tie your shoe if we know you are able to tie your shoe, we don’t zip your coat and if you aren’t able to, we give lessons and make you feel in charge of your own self and your own destiny,” Rossow said.
Louise Knight-Gibson, a graduate of the University and a former student at MSCU, said one reason she wanted her children to attend is because of the way the school approaches learning.
“They encourage students to learn at their own pace, and it’s not a one-size-fits-all curriculum. It’s really personalized and geared toward their interests and the things that they are passionate about,” Knight-Gibson said.
Diversity within the school was another reason. She said that as a biracial family, she wanted her kids to be with people from different backgrounds.
“An unofficial tagline is, ‘be brilliant, be you at MSCU,’ because we talk about how being brilliant is more than academic. We want everyone to shine so brightly wherever they are and whatever their strengths are,” Rossow said. “We want everyone to feel like they have a seat at the table, and whoever you are, there is a seat for you at MSCU.”