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A Montessori school is recruiting for students

MAKING PLANS — Thomas and Noelle Crowe are recruiting students for the Hilltop Children’s House, a neighborhood Montessori school for 3-to-6 year-olds they are opening at the corner of Maryland Avenue and Pittsburgh Street. Repairs to the building are ongoing as they begin a venture they hope will serve families who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity for the Montessori method education. -- Paul Giannamore

STEUBENVILLE — A Montessori school for 3-to-6 year-olds is in the recruiting phase for students as plans continue to open at Maryland Avenue and Pittsburgh Street this fall.

Thomas and Noelle Crowe obtained a conditional use permit for the building and are continuing renovations. They say some personal issues set back the development of the school from where they wanted it to be by now, but they’re ready to start, hoping to have at least six students to open in the fall.

The Montessori method builds on itself as a community of children learning together, with older children helping the younger children. The Hilltop Children’s House is hoping to start with younger children this year and recruiting a new class of younger children each year so that there will be three levels of learning, with one group finishing and a new one starting each year.

The idea is to learn as a shared experience.

Renovations to the small building are continuing, with long-term plans to remove walls, replace windows and add more windows, pull drop ceilings and more. In the meantime, the Crowes are working toward having a main learning room ready, with small book cabinets being made by Crowe’s father and brother in their cabinet company, and cleaning and other renovation work under way. The hope is for a more complete renovation by the start of the 2019 school year.

Hilltop Children’s House is a legal nonprofit corporation and is seeking donations for the renovations and to help school children at a reduced cost so that anyone, regardless of income, can send children to the school. The average to send children in the school’s age range nationwide is about $7,300, and the Crowes say their school tuition will be $2,200, with donors helping reduce the cost for families to send children.

“At $20 a month, 10 donors can provide an education for 10 children,” Thomas Crowe said.

They are in contact with the campus households and the Missions of Peace at the Franciscan University of Steubenville to seek volunteers to help with the construction projects. Some immediate projects include removal of a large stump in the backyard, which needs to be fenced to be used as an outdoor learning area, and replacement of the back porch and steps.

Noelle said a long-term hope is to provide a place for university education majors who want to learn to teach using the Montessori method. Noelle has years of experience in the northern Virginia area, including setting up a program in her parish.

The Crowes said they know there is an established Montessori school in Sunshine Park, but their idea is to provide the experience for families who might not otherwise afford it or want to arrange transportation to the western edge of the city.

“And, the more Montessori education we have in the city, the more people will know about it and hopefully, parents will see the benefit children get here,” Noelle said. She noted their school is for younger children while the established school runs through the elementary years.

Noelle Crowe said Montessori is not a religious education program, but one that takes the natural way that humans learn from their earliest days of life and builds upon that, one lesson at a time.

The fall sessions this year would be a morning school. In addition, an afternoon religious education program using the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd will be offered three afternoons a week, one day each for three different age groups.

The Crowes noted that Italian physician Maria Montessori started her work in the early 20th century in tenements in Rome, working with children of poor families. Though the Montessori method is often thought of as a learning chance for privileged families in the U.S., they hope to bring its availability to all families.

For information or to get involved with the Hilltop Children’s House, visit the school’s Facebook page or its website, hilltopchildrenshouse.org

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