A new middle school program is coming to Squamish.
In Sept. 2020, Squamish Montessori will be opening its doors to Grade 7 to 9 students for the first time in the local school's history.
The program will start with 10 to 12 students, between Grade 7 and 8, as they build the program. Some of the current Grade 6 students at Montessori will be continuing at the school, and new students will be accepted as well.
"It's really nice for parents to have more options. In Squamish, we don't have as many options as you would if you were in the city," Catrin Webb, the director of education at Squamish Montessori, said.
Montessori programs operate on three-year cycles, so classrooms stay with the same teachers for three years. Teachers become familiar with students' individual needs and learning rates, allowing for some flexibility over that time.
Montessori follows the B.C. curriculum for grade levels, as well as its own curriculum, which centres on a more universal and cosmic approach to education.
The Grade 7 to 9 program will have an entrepreneurial focus, Webb said.
"A lot of their work will be going out into the community, researching businesses, doing bigger projects within the community, looking at how to sell things, how to market things," Webb said.
Students will also have the opportunity to attend the Montessori Model United Nations, which will take place in the U.S. or overseas.
Webb said the school's classrooms can accommodate around 25 students per class, so Montessori is looking at the possibility of an expansion project, likely in the next three years. The plans for phase two are already prepared.
Montessori students moved into their new school in the Skyridge neighbourhood last January. There are currently 80 students attending the school.
"It's been in need and something that's been asked from our community for a while now," Webb said of the new grades. "It wasn't until we were able to be in this building, where we are able to expand. Before, we were kind of like every other school, where we were busting at the seams... Moving here, we are a lot more settled and our parent community was really interested in that."
Webb said she spoke to several principals of Squamish schools about Montessori starting a middle school program and they were encouraging because of their own capacity needs.
"I think they embrace any educational opportunity that comes to Squamish for that age group, because we need more — we have so many kids," Webb said.
Ultimately, Squamish Montessori would like to add even more grades to their programs.
"We want to do it slowly and properly," Webb said.
*Please note this story has been updated. It previously referred to Squamish Montessori as Squamish Montessori School, which is a preschool in the area.