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FWB Montessori school looks to build new campus

By Savannah Vasquez

Posted Mar 6, 2019  |


FORT WALTON BEACH — On the back side of St. Simon’s-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, with a playground that faces the Santa Rosa Sound, sits the Montessori Learning Center of Fort Walton Beach. The school has quietly been a part of the community for 40 years, and since opening in 1978 has seen more than 600 children come through it’s doors.

Today, the school is home to 62 students from preschool to second grade, and its leadership says the time is ripe to expand. With 72 children on a waiting list and students aging out after second grade, Director Stacey Izer said Montessori is looking to build a facility that could accommodate 100 children from pre-K3 to sixth grade.

“Starting in the 2019 school year, we will be adding third grade,” Izer said. “We just need space, and that is our challenge right now.”

Izer said the Montessori Method of teaching was developed by Italian physician and psychologist Maria Montessori in 1906. The basis is that children thrive best by learning from their environment and by learning independence at a young age, she said.

“The children kind of lead their education, so if they are interested in something, they can expand on that,” Izer said of the Montessori Method. “We don’t stifle a child. If they know their letters, their numbers, we are going to go ahead and teach them to read. It doesn’t matter to us what age they are, and everybody doesn’t have to be doing the same thing at the same time.”

The Montessori Learning Center is in talks with the city of Fort Walton Beach about leasing or buying the parcel in front of the Emerald Coast Science Center on Memorial Parkway, which now has an under-utilized community garden. If acquired, the school said its goal is to become a well-integrated part of the city.

“If we were to consider that spot, we also would consider relocating the community garden and possibly incorporating that into a joint venture —not only for our community— but with the school and the Science Center,” said Mary Cotten, the Montessori school board’s vice president.

Fort Walton Beach officials confirmed that the Montessori Learning Center approached the city about the property a few months ago. Realty House, the city’s real estate consultant, is discussing that possibility with the school.

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