Montessori school planned

Published 9:38 pm Monday, July 23, 2012

The Montessori Academy of Virginia says it will establish a new private daycare center and elementary school across from Towne Bank on Harbour View Boulevard. The school will join two other Montessori schools owned by the academy, in Virginia Beach and Chesapeake.

A new private elementary school and daycare center is coming to North Suffolk, since the city approved a conditional use permit for a Montessori school.

The 9,500-square-foot school will be built across from Towne Bank on Harbour View Boulevard, serving about 150 children from age two through fifth grade, Montessori Academy of Virginia Administrator Pali Divitotawela said.

“We will hopefully start building around September, and it will be about April by the time everything gets done,” he said.

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The school will be fully Montessori accredited, he said.

The Montessori method of education was developed by Maria Montessori, born in Italy in 1870 and that country’s first female medical doctor, as well as being an anthropologist and psychologist, the academy website says.

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.

“It’s a very well-rounded education.”

Divitotalwela 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 a Montessori school in Virginia Beach before establishing a second campus in Chesapeake.

“We employ about 30 members of staff in both schools,” Pali Divitotawela said. “The Suffolk school will have 17 to 20 employees, which is teachers, assistants and office staff.”

He decided to bring Montessori to Suffolk on the suggestion of Vice Mayor Charles Brown, he said.

“He put me in touch with (city Economic Development Director) Kevin Hughes,” Divitotawela said.

Hughes showed him prospective sites for a new school, Divitotawela said, before Harbour View developer Bob Williams “offered me this property right next to his office, which is a lovely place.”

“The city officials were so helpful,” he added. “Whatever obstacle, they managed to help me out.”

According to the academy website, annual school fees range from $5,000 for part-time pre-K students, to $6,350 for full-time students in grades four and above.

The academy does not provide transport to and from school, and parents provide a packed lunch.

Maximum class size is 20, with two adults per class, and the academy follows Virginia state requirements for teacher-student ratios.