Independent school to open in Montrose

Amber Gardner opened Bright Beginnings preschool in the fall of 2008 with eight students who met in the garage of her Montrose home.

Four years later, the school has 220 preschool through first-grade students and 31 employees in a building at 120 N. Hillcrest Ave. Construction of a two-classroom building connected to the preschool by a sensory garden and outdoor classroom began in April. The new building should be done in mid-July and will openSept. 4 as Maslow Academy of Applied Learning, an elementary school for first- through fourth-graders.

Maslow will be an independent school, meaning it’s a tuition-based institution not affiliated with a school district or church. The school will offer standardized testing and remain open year-round, with review sessions offered when Montrose public schools are on break.

The Maslow name was inspired by the teaching philosophy used at Bright Beginnings, which the elementary school will use as well. Late professor Abraham Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” theory asserted people need to have certain needs met before they can build up to their maximum potential, beginning with basics like food and shelter. Maslow Executive Director Chrissy Simmons said that’s one of the reasons that the breakfast, lunch and snacks, which are prepared on-site, often with local products, are included in the price of tuition, which is $525 a month without before- or after-school care.

“We provide a lot of things so when the child is in the classroom they can meet their maximum potential,” Simmons said.

The schools place children in classes based on their ability levels instead of their ages. Maslow will have a “primary” classroom, which is equivalent to a first- and second-grade classroom in traditional schools,  and a “lower intermediate” group, which is similar to a second- through fourth-grade group.

“To us, that’s celebrating the uniqueness and individuality each child has,” Gardner said.

Kindergarten-equivalent classes will remain at Bright Beginnings with infants and toddlers until six more classrooms can be added in the next phase of construction on the three-acre property that houses Maslow and Bright Beginnings. That project may be done as soon as next year. A third phase of construction would include the addition of a kitchen and cafeteria at Maslow.

Gardner said she never imagined Bright Beginnings would grow so quickly or that she would add elementary grades. But parent demand led her to move out of her garage and into a proper facility in 2009, then add kindergarten and first-grade classes last fall. Parent demand inspired Gardner to open Maslow Academy as well, and she has just six out of 36 spots still available for 2012-13 enrollment at the first- through fourth-grade level.

Gardner said she plans to add a fifth-grade class in the future and hasn’t ruled out the addition of middle or high school grades in a few years.

“We have the desire, we have the staff and the children who want to be a part of it. It just comes down to funds,” she said.


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