YARMOUTH — North Yarmouth Academy will expand its grade offerings for the first time in its nearly 200-year history to include instruction below fifth grade.

NYA announced Thursday that it will merge with Freeport’s Meadowbrook Montessori School to offer primary education for children from 2 1/2 years old through fourth grade at a new Lower School beginning this fall.

“We’re excited about this initiative, which will allow us to be able to serve more students during a crucial time in their educational development,” NYA Headmaster Brad Choyt said. “This is something that not only will serve a great need in the community, but also something that will enhance the overall atmosphere of the school.”

Choyt said the school expects to have enrollment between 40-50 students by the time classes begin in September. And while the capacity may expand to 60 students in the future, he said the intent is to keep enrollments low to facilitate individual attention to students. NYA’s current enrollment is 266 students.

Enrollment applications for the Lower School are now being accepted, although about 30 of the spots will be held for students who transfer from the Freeport school.

The Lower School will be based in a 3,500-square-foot building near Safford Hall and the sports fields. The NYA-owned historic Colonial building was previously leased as a residence and will be renovated during the summer to accommodate classrooms, Choyt said.

The lower-grade students will eventually participate in “cross-division” learning, the headmaster said – a type of instruction where they will learn from and collaborate with NYA’s middle school and high school students.

Choyt said the plan to add the new school took shape when he began working at NYA in 2011 and visited various heads of other area schools, including Anna Langstaff at Meadowbrook.

They began discussing collaborating to start a lower school, with conversations accelerating in the last couple months to develop the model, Choyt said.

“Our goal is to cultivate wonder and curiosity in children and to foster a deeper understanding and respect for learning and knowledge,” he said.

Meadowbrook will be dissolved into the NYA Lower School and may bring along the Montessori school’s five teachers, dependent on enrollment and the teachers’ preferences, Langstaff said.

Langstaff said the merger will provide the Meadowbrook students with larger facilities and mesh well with the Montessori pedagogy of long, uninterrupted blocks of learning time and one-on-one attention.

“Essentially what it means is that the students will continue to receive the same quality of education, only with the facilities of NYA behind us, which will provide opportunities for (physical education), music and art studios,” she said. “And, most importantly to me, students will have the opportunity to stay in a single place through high school.”

Annual tuition for grades one through four will cost $12,900. Full-day pre-kindergarten, from 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m., will be $11,900; Half-day pre-K will be $7,900. Tuition for fifth grade and sixth through 12th grade costs $22,000 and $26,000, respectively.

Langstaff said tuition at the NYA Lower School will be only slightly greater than at Meadowbrook and on par with similar schools in the area.

In addition to the Lower School, NYA is also planning to re-establish a small boarding school program in 2014, for which it will seek approval from the Town Council this fall.

According to NYA, up to 24 students would be hosted in the Bates House on the west side of the Main Street campus. No structural changes are planned at the building and no zoning changes are proposed.

The program would allow the school to attract students from outside the immediate area and create more diversity at the school, Choyt said.

NYA offered boarding programs in the past, most recently in the 1970s. The proposed boarding school would be smaller and an expansion of a “homestay” program, which boards out-of-state and international students with Yarmouth residents.

“We feel we can enhance the overall school though these new initiatives, both in terms of programs and attracting great families to the community,” Choyt said.

NYA will host an informational meeting about the new Lower School at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 30, in the Savage Middle School Community Room, 172 Main St. For more information, contact the NYA admission’s office at 207-846-2376 or go to www.NYA.org.

Will Graff can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @W_C_Graff.

filed under: