Penfield Children’s Center, a provider of early childhood services for low-income children, will open a Montessori charter school at the site of the former Urban Day School, school officials announced.
According to plans, Penfield Montessori Academy will open Sept. 6 with three kindergarten classes. Over time, the school will become a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school and will add a grade annually until the school is fully enrolled for the fall 2024-’25 academic year.
The school is chartered for five years by UW-Milwaukee. Charter schools are public schools run by non-profit companies. They exist through a contract with a state-approved entity that allows them freedom from some state rules in exchange for quality performance.
“We’ve been looking to deepen our impact with families we serve and now have a facility in place to do so,” said Jason Parry, Penfield’s vice president of development and communications for Penfield. “This is an exciting time. We are two months away from the first day of school.”
Montessori schools follow a teaching philosophy that focuses on allowing students to make their own choices in learning with a hands-on approach. The method of instruction emphasizes students choosing their educational activities, long blocks of work time and collaboration between students from a range of grade levels.
Parry said the school will be “fully inclusive” and expects 30% to 40% of their students to have disabilities, which is higher than most charter schools. “We are a school for all abilities,” he said.
The new Montessori school is opening in the building that once housed Urban Day School, which closed at the end of the previous academic year because of declining enrollment and financial challenges. Urban Day was also a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade public charter school that served 475 students.
“We were sad to see Urban Day School close, but it turned out to be an opportunity for us,” Parry said. “The facility allows us to move right in and start this fall and the building supports our long-term needs.”
Adrienne Woods, who heads UWM’s Office of Charter Schools, said Montessori schools have proved to be effective and have an established reputation. She said the new school would not face the same fate as Urban Day.
“Location wasn’t an issue. Urban Day had other organizational problems,” Woods said. ” What happened to Urban Day was unfortunate, but it all worked out.”
Parry said Penfield jumped on the opportunity to acquire the Urban Day School building, at 2433 W. Cherry St. in Milwaukee. They were previously looking at the location of the former Wisconsin Avenue School at 2708 W. Wisconsin Ave., as the proposed site of a new Montessori school.
Parry said Penfield’s enrollment estimate for the three kindergarten classes his risen to 83 from 72. He said they are continually recruiting children and if they continue to get more students enrolled they will open a fourth kindergarten class for this fall.
Penfield plans minor renovations to the building before opening in the fall and a “more expansive face-lift” leading up to the 2017-18 school year.”