April 1, 2013

NYA, Montessori school OK 'dream' merger

The academy will add the early grades and become a full pre-K-to-12 program as it absorbs Meadowbrook.

By Noel K. Gallagher ngallagher@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

North Yarmouth Academy is merging with Meadowbrook Montessori of Freeport to create a new Lower School serving pre-kindergarten through fourth-graders, school officials say.

"We're really excited," said North Yarmouth Academy Head of School Brad Choyt. The school already serves students in grades five through 12.

Anna Langstaff, the owner of Meadowbrook Montessori School, said the merger came at the perfect time. She was looking to expand her 20-student school to create more space for outdoor activities, art and other programs.

"I thought it was just an idealistic dream," said Langstaff, who taught at the school before buying it about two years ago.

The idea of "expanding" turned to talk of a merger after Langstaff met with Choyt and visited North Yarmouth Academy.

"I thought these schools are incredibly similar, and I stop (at fourth grade) where they start," she said. "I thought maybe we should team up."

Choyt said applications are being accepted for the new school, which he hopes will enroll 40 to 50 students. There would be a combined class for grades one and two, the same for grades three and four, and two sections for combined pre-K and kindergartners.

The school will be housed in a 3,500-square-foot Colonial-style house that NYA purchased about five years ago, Choyt said. The property abuts the 25-acre campus, and school officials decided to buy it when it came on the market.

The school is currently renovating the house to accommodate the school.

"This is a great thing," said Langstaff, who wants to teach at the new school. Montessori settings are supposed to be home-like, so being in a residence is ideal, she said.

Tuition will go up slightly for her families, she said, but the price is competitive with similar schools in the area and the offerings will expand significantly, with art, language and music programs.

Choyt said he first visited Meadowbrook as part of a tour of nearby schools when he was named head of school two years ago. He said he was immediately drawn to the school.

"When I walked into that school, the energy and engagement of the students really struck me," Choyt said.

He said the NYA board supported the merger not only because the opportunity presented itself, but for philosophical reasons. The board wants to encourage robust learning experiences in early education to prepare students for the traditional education that NYA has always provided for students in grade five and higher, Choyt said.

"This is about inspiring lifelong learning and engagement," he said. The Lower School will use Montessori techniques through the second grade, then in grades three to four will continue to "foster curiosity and motivation to learn while preparing for an easy transition to the middle school," according to the school website.

Montessori supports a more child-directed teaching environment, with blocks of time available for self-directed projects and play -- a generally less structured approach to education.

North Yarmouth Academy, which will celebrate its 200th year in 2014, is a college preparatory school and emphasizes academic rigor. The school was initially conceived as a feeder school for Bowdoin and Colby colleges, Choyt said.

He described the merged Lower School as combining both schools' philosophies.

Students in the Lower School will have regular classes with physical education, music, art and foreign language, Choyt said.

"It's not about stopping at 35 minutes and having bells and covering a certain amount of material," he said. "This generation of students are going to use technology that is not invented yet, and have careers that aren't created yet. We need to prepare them for a different set of knowledge, and that starts with inspiring curiosity and inspiring a love of learning."

More information about the new school is available at nya.org. An informational meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 30, in the community room at 172 Main St. in Yarmouth.

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

ngallagher@pressherald.com

 

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