A big new space: Glen Montessori School pupils gain gym, library, cafeteria and more

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When the Glen Montessori School moved from Emsworth to Ross over the summer, the students' biggest gripe became their favorite part of the day -- gym class.

In a night-and-day change of attitude from last winter when Addison Dexter dreaded indoor yoga sessions in the gym-less former school, the 9-year-old is now looking forward to soccer in the new school's gym.

"I've played it for four years and I'm pretty excited," he said.

The new building, which previously housed Perrysville Elementary School in the North Hills School District, expanded the school's space from 14,600 square feet to 30,130 and increased the number of rooms. The larger area allowed the school to enroll about 30 additional students with room to grow and hire more teachers.

"We had one all-purpose room that was used for everything," principal Lois Payne said of the old school.

"Now we have a cafeteria, a gym, enrichment rooms and a library. We have 14 classrooms versus nine last year."

The school year is running smoothly, but the transition to the Ross location on Perry Highway (Route 19) wasn't without hiccups.

A moving company priced the cost of hauling the school's furniture and equipment at $30,000. Having already spent $630,000 on the new building, the price seemed exorbitant and Mrs. Payne insisted that the staff would do it themselves.

"It was the biggest juggling act I had ever done in my life," Mrs. Payne said. "I don't know if I would attempt something like that again."

The school received help from the Central Catholic High School crew team, who was trying to raise money for a tournament in England and offered to act as movers and paint the inside of the new building.

Timing also became an issue.

The office furniture was moved out of Emsworth in May to open up space for storage boxes as the school year came to a close.

Mrs. Payne laughed as she remembered how her desk at the old school consisted of a chair and a crate for awhile.

Montessori schools take a child-centric approach to education, with classrooms designated for infants and toddlers, 3- to 6-year-olds, first- through third-graders and fourth- to sixth-graders.

Most of the furniture for grade 1-6 classrooms was moved to the new school June 2.

The move-in date required teachers to hurry to prepare their classrooms for summer camp, which began two days later.

But everything wasn't moved to the new school at once.

The infants and toddlers stayed in the old school for another three weeks as their new rooms were prepared, inconveniencing some parents who had to drop off their younger children in Emsworth and then drive 15 minutes to take their older children to the new school in Ross.

"A few families elected to wait until they could drop them off at one location," Mrs. Payne said.

Montessori schools, which have hands-on activity stations to allow a child's curiosity to lead his or her learning, are set up differently than traditional schools, and the Ross space will require additional renovations as means allow.

Completing a library space and filling its bookshelves is at the top of Mrs. Payne's list.

"It kills me because I have the energy to do it, but I have to wait," Mrs. Payne said.

Thus far, the smiles on the children's faces as they do an obstacle course in the gym and their own testaments prove the move was worthwhile.

"I like it a lot because it's nice that we have more space compared to how small the other building was," 10-year-old Sarah Good-Lane said of her new school. "I get lost sometimes here."

education - neigh_north

Taryn Luna: tluna@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1985.


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