Plans To Expand

Woodland Montesorri Seeks OK From City To Move Into New Larger Building

Posted: February 10, 2014

Woodland Montessori teacher Crystal Yoder (right) works with 6-year-old Carina Shifflett at the Harrisonburg school on Friday. City Council will hold a public hearing Tuesday on Woodland’s proposal to add a day care at the school’s new location. (Photos by Jason Lenhart / DN-R)
Carina Shifflett works on an assignment. Woodland Montessori School is proposing an addition of a day care and has plans to double its enrollment.

HARRISONBURG — The roof leaks sometimes at Woodland Montessori School, and getting the temperature just right can be hit or miss.

It’s in an old barn, after all.

“We really need a new building,” teacher Crystal Yoder said.

The school has found what it needs, but it’ll take Harrisonburg City Council approval first on Tuesday to make it happen.

A public hearing is planned for 7 p.m. on Woodland’s proposal to build a day care center as part of a new school on a 3-acre site off Running Springs Road, near Ramblewood Park. It now operates at 1350 Peach Grove Avenue, next to Eagle Carpet, and has a smaller location nearby on Port Republic Road.

Council meets in its chambers at 409 S. Main St.

The Harrisonburg Planning Commission recommended approval of Woodland’s request by a 3-2 vote last month, but not until residents and parents of students had shared differing views on the proposal.

Neighbors voiced concerns about traffic, lighting and parking associated with the new school — Woodland seeks off-street parking for the facility, in addition to the day care permit — while parents diffused worries by saying traffic is not as heavy as public schools and that school officials will promote a cooperative atmosphere.

City code allows public schools, or a private school having a function similar to a public school, as a use permitted by-right in the Running Springs neighborhood, meaning Woodland doesn’t need permission to build.

However, the services offered to preschool-aged children, from 2½ to 4 years old, are considered a child day care center, which requires a special-use permit in Harrisonburg.

Along with the day care permit, Woodland seeks permission for off-street parking and must meet city requirements. City staff recommends 41 parking spaces and that Woodland “be as sensitive as possible when choosing parking lot lighting,” a report says.

The school’s current enrollment is 70 students, ages 2½ to 12, and the plan is to increase enrollment to 150 students at the new location, according to a Harrisonburg planning staff memo. Forty-five students are in the preschool program now, and Woodland has 12 full-time employees, which would increase with expansion.

Montessori schools follow educational philosophy developed by Italian educator Maria Montessori in the early 1900s. She believed children can work at their own pace with minimum adult supervision, while older students are encouraged to help the younger ones.

If council approves the project, the new school is expected to open next year.

Contact Preston Knight at 574-6272 or pknight@dnronline.com



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