Children may choose to work productively at a table or on the floor.
Montessori encourages freedom within limits in a carefully prepared environment. Children may choose to work productively at a table or on the floor.  (Montessori Center School photo.)

The 2020 school year has just begun and Noozhawk’s Private & Independent School Guide is sure to make things easy when planning for your child’s education! In the midst of the pandemic and distance learning it is now more important than ever to make the right decisions regarding your children’s education. Our school guide provides you and your child with all the necessary information about private schools in Santa Barbara County.

To give parents the tools to help make informed decisions about which school is the best fit for their kids during this unprecedented time, Noozhawk has conducted a series of interviews with representatives of local private & independent schools in Santa Barbara for this year’s school guide.

In this interview, Noozhawk spoke with Melanie Jacobs, Head of School at Montessori Center School to learn more about what their school offers and the changes that have been made due to COVID-19.

Montessori Center School

Question: What is the name of your school and what grade levels do you offer?

Answer: Montessori Center School. MCS serves students ages 18 months through 6th grade.

Q: How is your school operated or governed?

A: MCS is a nonprofit, independent school governed by a Board of Trustees. Please use the link below to learn more about the role of our Board of Trustees.

Q: Describe what the typical model student looks like to your school?

A: One benefit to a Montessori education is that the uniqueness of each child is respected. Our curriculum is individualized, allowing the strengths of each student to shine through, while giving them the support they need for areas of challenge. Part of the fabric of a Montessori setting is the admiration it has for the individuality and authenticity of each child. One of our main goals is to foster a life-long love of learning by providing a rich environment with a broad and enticing curriculum to capture the enthusiasm and motivation of each student. 

Uniquely designed Montessori materials provide a hands-on approach to learning.

Uniquely designed Montessori materials provide a hands-on approach to learning. Each material teaches one concept or skill at a time, and lays a foundation from which students can comprehend increasingly abstract ideas. (Montessori Center School photo.)

Q: Describe the typical day in the life of a student at your school for in-person and/or distance learning instruction.

A: A typical day of in-person instruction includes a short morning meeting followed by an uninterrupted work cycle of 2-3 hours which allows students to receive lessons, complete independent work, work collaboratively with other students and receive specialist instruction. Following a midday lunch and play time, students then receive group lessons, specialist classes or go back to independent work depending on the day, culminating in an end-of-day meeting.  

Q: What curriculum is available and taught at your school?

A: Montessori is a method of education based on the planes of development identified by Maria Montessori. Each environment is set up to cater to the particular ages of the students it serves, prepared carefully to inspire creativity, engage interest and spark a love of learning. Students are offered choice of activities within the structure of the classroom that feature, hands-on learning experiences, collaborative student interaction and guided lessons by Montessori trained teachers.  Montessori has its own unique curriculum which is broad and expansive, allowing teachers a large range of lessons for all learning levels. The curriculum is individualized for each child. Montessori classrooms incorporate the use of specialized educational materials created or inspired by Maria Montessori. The materials are organized by their specific curricular areas, including: Language, Mathematics, Practical Life, Sensorial and Cultural (all sciences). MCS aligns the Montessori curriculum with the state standards every few years to be sure it is covering all the necessary areas of learning, and goes more deeply into many subjects than traditional curriculum. 

Q: Can you describe your student to teacher ratio?

A: Our student to teacher ratio at the Pre-Primary level (18 months-3 years) is 6:1. Our Primary and Elementary classrooms have a 12:1 student to teacher ratio. 

Q:  Does your school measure student progress? If so, how do you measure this individual achievement?

A: We use several tools to measure our students’ progress throughout the year. Montessori philosophy believes deeply in consistent observation of the student. Our teachers observe the students daily, taking into account academic progress, independence, pace, quality of work and motivation. We also use DIBELS reading and math benchmark screeners that we administer 3x/year to identify any students who may need additional support. For students in third grade and older, we use the Terra Nova standardized test annually. Anyone in our community can refer a student to our Student Support Services for additional resources and assistance when needed. We have an on-site Learning Specialist who works with many of our students to provide extra support and intervention. We hold parent conferences twice a year and provide additional meetings as needed. Conference reports are generated twice a year for elementary students and once a year for our preschool students.

Q: How does your school support students who have academic, social, or emotional difficulties?

A: The Montessori Method uses a flexible, open-ended and child-centered curriculum which is well-suited for children with varying ability levels. Montessori teachers are trained observers who individualize and modify their instruction for all students. The Student Support Services program at MCS provides the infrastructure to support students with learning differences and ensures diverse learning needs are met within the classroom. Our Student Support Services Director helps facilitate the identification, assessment and case management of students and coordinates communication between parents, teachers and outside service providers. When learning issues or high potential learners are identified, the team creates a plan to work with the parents and outside service providers to determine strategies, interventions and accommodations to best support the student’s needs.

Uninterrupted work periods enables students to work at their own pace and without interruption.

Uninterrupted work periods enables students to work at their own pace and without interruption. The ability to self-select work enhances self-motivation and sustains attention. (Montessori Center School photo.)

Q: How can parents get involved at your school during COVID-19 and thereafter?

A: MCS has a strong parent community and prides itself on families taking an active role in their children’s education. MCS boasts a dynamic parent group, called the MPO (Montessori Parent Organization). The purpose of the MPO is to foster and celebrate a strong sense of community while furthering the MCS mission. Our MPO offers a variety of ways for members to participate in school life in a meaningful way and offer their time and talents to the MCS community. Coordinated by a group of parents, the mission of the MPO includes providing parent education opportunities, supporting new families, and supporting various school activities by coordinating volunteers. During COVID we are not able to offer in-person volunteer opportunities for parents on campus, however we are offering virtual ways for parents to support our classrooms. 

MCS has a long history of generosity and giving through fundraising opportunities as well. This year, due to COVID restrictions, we are thinking out of the box and planning some virtual events. Each classroom has a volunteer classroom representative who helps to organize art projects, baskets and virtual party books for our main fundraising event, which is usually an auction gala. With the help of our parents, we are planning creative ways to continue fundraising for our wonderful school. 

Q:What is the cost or tuition to attend your school?

A: ​Montessori Center School’s 2020-2021 tuition rates range from $12,555- $19,255.00 annually. This covers the ten-month academic school year. The tuition depends upon the program level. Please find below a link to our tuition rates found on our website.

Montessori Center School is currently offering onsite instruction, five days a week for students ages 18 months – sixth grade. 

Click here for more information about Montessori Center School.