History of Roots and Wings Montessori School
Roots & Wings Montessori Place was established in 1985 as Reflections Montessori. Our school quickly grew from 35 students in leased space to over 100 three-to-five-year olds in 1987, in their own school, built with generous and caring help from their parents. In 1990 we formed the Roots and Wings Montessori Society to receive public school funds, (replaced by Radicalus Montessori Society in 1998), and expanded to include the elementary level. After 16 years of successful operation, it was time to find a location that would better meet our needs for interaction with the natural environment, and where we could expand.
Kristin began the land search in 1996 and found a Farm 1 zoned piece of farm land – one the school could develop to include the school buildings – and seemingly the last possible such piece of farmland in Surrey. She and the parents of her school then spent two years lobbying the ten city councilors to overrule the city’s plan to use this land for commercial development.
At the hearing in November of 2000 at 11:01 p.m., eight of the ten councilors approved the zoning to open our school on this land and it passed. Such elation! Conditions for rezoning included our requirement to sell the front acre, bordering on a busy road, for light industrial use, while we located our school at the back of the property, behind a creek. We were also required to build a city road through the property, expropriating part of our land and a heritage house.
In February 2002, Roots and Wings Enterprises Corporation sold the current school property to purchase the ten acre farm.
Bank financing was delayed month by month, until it was two weeks before school opening in the Fall of 2002, when a financial institution finally approved the financing for purchase of the property – with one new condition: the corporation must come up with an additional $450,000 to build a new city road through the property. At that time, the corporation was not in a position to finance these additional funds.
To meet the urgent need to open in two weeks, devotion of thought led to the discovery of a local church that could temporarily accommodate most of our program. Our school population had dwindled by half at this point.
In November, the remaining passionate parents committed to investing in a bond program, which required each of them to contribute $25,000 to the school (refundable in full when their child left) The bond expert was astounded to find that in three weeks the families had raised sufficient funds to meet our goal of $1.5 million to purchase the property! Only a non-profit society could participate in the bond program, so Enterprises bowed out to allow Radicalus Montessori Society to enter into a contract on the property in early January, 2003. This Society, which governed the operation of the elementary program, was composed of parents of students in the school and a community financial expert.
Roots and Wings Enterprises purchased a modular building which was quickly installed and ready to occupy on April 15, 2003. With great relief, the students, teachers and parents kissed the ground and moved in! The Mayor, despite having voted against our plan, attended our Opening Ceremony.
The intent was to remain in the temporary building for two years (under a Temporary Use Permit), while the final school was built at the back of the property. In September 2003 we were finally ready to begin an alternative concept in adolescent education. After training at The Hershey Montessori Farm School, in Cleveland, Ohio, Kristin began the Junior High program, modeled after Maria Montessori’s ideals for education that met the real needs of adolescents, offering our students connections with nature and purposeful work on the land.
The school had projected rapid growth following the move in 2003, with resultant generation of funds to complete the road and other required preparations, and build the new school building. However we soon discovered that our bond program was working strongly against increase in enrolment. We estimated we lost over eighty families in 2004, due to their reluctance to take out a bond. By the summer of 2005, the Board was financially able to lift this requirement for the youngest children, and quickly the primary population began to grow.
In the first two months of 2006, we received a 15% increase in enrolment at the primary level. Gradually the increase at this level would feed into and increase enrolment at the higher levels, and relieve to some degree the financial challenges of the school. However clearly, to really grow, we needed to find a way to end the bond program.
Abolition of the bond program
Due to the urgency of redeeming the student bond program and the necessity for obtaining development funds, a contract was entered into with the neighbours to the north. The road was built and the bonds paid out.. However development costs were prohibitive, and after another several years of attempting to develop on this site, it seemed clear it was not the right place for our whole program. We renovated the Heritage Home, now a stunningly beautiful bright environment, nestled amongst the trees by the creek, a lovely home for our preschool and daycare children.
The elementary and secondary programs moved to Campbell Valley Park in Langley. Here, our gardens flourished, new animals were born and raised and we opened a new daycare and preschool on the site.
Unfortunately, we were unable to get a lease extension through Metro Vancouver due to unforeseen issues with the building but were fortunate enough to be invited to rent space at the wonderful natural forested Camp McLean, also in Campbell Valley Park, while we work on building an ideal farm/forest location nearby for our permanent school.
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