Niles offering Montessori preschool this fall
Niles Community Schools will be offering a Montessori preschool for children ages 3, 4 and 5 beginning this fall.
The tuition-based program will be housed in a classroom at Northside School under the instruction of Donna Dodge and instructional assistant Deb Johnson.
Howard-Ellis Principal Michelle Asmus, who has a background in the Montessori method, will oversee the program.
Started in the early 1900s by Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori, the Montessori method is based on the belief children learn by discovery.
“If an environment is prepared in such a way, children will learn by touching and exploring with manipulatives,” Asmus said. “Kids will go from work to work based on their own pace and own interest. The job of the teacher is to watch the children, see what they like, see what they aren’t using and entice them into using different materials so they get a feel for them all.”
Dodge and Johnson begin six weeks of training for Montessori certification Monday.
Asmus said 15 children had enrolled as of Thursday, leaving around 15 spots open. The Montessori program is offering full day and half-day options. Classes run five days a week for the school year. Cost of tuition is $293 a month for the half-day option and $585 a month for full day.
Supt. Richard Weigel said they are charging tuition because NCS does not receive state funding for these preschool students.
“We are trying to cover some of our cost, but we won’t cover all of it,” he said.
The Montessori program fills a gap in NCS’ preschool offerings because, prior to now, NCS did not have a preschool option for families that did not qualify for its Great Start Readiness and Head Start preschool programs.
“It’s an opportunity to give preschool to anyone that wants to be part of Niles Community Schools,” said Zech Hoyt, Northside principal.
Asmus said the program will benefit any child ages 3 to 5.
“This method of learning matches what preschoolers automatically do,” she said. “They want to touch things, they want to do it themselves, they want to explore.”
The Montessori preschool is a pilot program. Asmus said the hope is that the interest will allow NCS to continue to open up sections as students progress through the grades.
For more information on the program, contact NCS at (269) 683-0732