A new Montessori school in Harbour View will start classes Sept. 3. Montessori schools take a holistic approach to education.
A new Montessori school in Harbour View will start classes Sept. 3. Montessori schools take a holistic approach to education.

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Montessori school set to open

Published 8:06pm Thursday, August 15, 2013

A new private elementary school and daycare center in North Suffolk will open for classes on Sept. 3, said Pali Divitotawela of the Montessori Academy of Virginia.

“We are very, very excited to open a Montessori school in Suffolk,” he said. “We are ready, everything is ready.”

Expected eventually to serve 150 children from age 2 through fifth grade, the school’s enrollment currently stands at 71, Divitotawela said, a figure he expects will expand to beyond 80 before doors open.

“This is the month of the highest enrollments, because everybody goes on holidays and then comes home and looks for schools,” he said. “It’s a very good start, it’s a good level of enrollment for the Montessori program.”

The Montessori movement was developed by Maria Montessori, born in Italy in 1870 and its first female medical doctor, as well as an anthropologist and psychologist, according to the academy’s website.

She left medicine to focus on holistic education and establish a “science of education,” which has since spread around the world.

The academy has a list of basic goals for its schools, including fostering independence, self-control and self-discipline, and cultivating “the child’s natural desire to learn.”

“Montessori education helps students to develop at their own pace,” Divitotawela said, describing it as a “hands-on” approach.

The Academy, which currently has locations in Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, encourages students to explore subjects that interest them and divides them into groups across age ranges, instead of by grade levels.

“The Elementary program is made up of connective lessons integrating math, sciences, geography, history and language arts,” the academy’s website states.

“The students learn within a philosophical system by asking questions, doing open-ended research, completing in-depth studies, using timelines and concrete materials and other visual aids providing a linguistic and visual overview of each subject area. Studies are integrated not only in terms of subject matter but in terms of moral learning as well, resulting in appreciation and respect for life, moral empathy and contribution of each individual.”

Builder Charlie Anderson constructed the new 9,500-square-foot school, across from Towne Bank on Harbour View Boulevard, in a speedy four months, according to Divitotawela.

“The builder built it right on time, which I really appreciate him doing,” he said. “No other builder would have given it to me in that time.”

The school will start with five classes, Divitotawela said, adding that staff, including a teacher for each class, two or three assistant teachers and office staff, will mostly be transfers from the academy’s other schools.

Divitotawela came to the Hampton Roads area from Sri Lanka 25 years ago with wife Niranji Divitotawela, who is the academy’s curriculum director and a certified Montessori teacher, he said.

They started with both of the other academy locations and decided to bring Montessori to Suffolk on the suggestion of Vice Mayor Charles Brown, Divitotawela said.

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