VOL. 116 | NO. 89 | Tuesday, May 7, 2002
New Cordova Montessori on tap
Cordova site for expanded Montessori school
By MARY DANDO
The Daily News
Construction of one of the largest Montessori schools in the nation will begin shortly following the closing of bids at 2 p.m. Thursday.
Architect Jack Tucker of Tucker & Associates is designing the Lamplighter School at 8563 Fay Road in Cordova.
"Eventually, its going to be about 40,000 square feet, probably one of the biggest in the country. This is Phase I of the project," he said.
Tucker said the first phase will be 10,000 square feet and should be finished by January.
"Its such a neat system for teaching. Its so unique and creative. I was just really excited about getting the project," he said.
The construction of the new school is a dream come true to Dr. Kathy Roemer, Lamplighter head since 1996.
The bid process involves four general contractors who have been invited to bid on the project, she said.
She said construction would occur in three phases. If it were done all at once, the project cost would have remained at about $4.5 million.
But because it is spread over three phases, it will be more costly to build.
"We have 186 students and were bursting at the seams. Our goal (in a capital campaign) is to raise $250,000 and get bank financing for the rest of the construction," she said.
Tuition averages about $6,800 per year, but is lower for younger students.
With no church affiliation and without a corps of alumni, mounting a capital campaign has been tough going for the school, Tucker said.
"Its a fun project because not only are you doing an architectural project, youre kind of doing a community service, too."
A Montessori school stresses a hands-on approach to learning in student groups of mixed ages.
The school serves students from 3-year-olds through 14, she said.
"We are Montessori so our classes are multi-age. We have a 3-year age span in each class. We have a lot of hands-on material, so all of the concepts are taught with hands-on materials first before they do abstraction and paper and pencil. The children have the same teachers, which makes a nice relationship. We encourage a lot of parent volunteers as most schools do," she said.
"From a very young age, we work with geography and science and reading, math and literature and that carries on," she said.
Roemer joined Lamplighter in 1992 as associate head of school.
Lamplighter began in 1967 in Whitehaven when Dr. Patty Calvert and her husband, Dennis, set up a Montessori class for seven students.
Following requests of Midtown families, the first satellite school was established in 1980. Other satellites followed in East Memphis and Germantown.
In 1981, Lamplighter was approved as an internship site for the American Montessori Societys teacher training program.
Lamplighter remained in Whitehaven until 1996.
"We bought the property in Cordova in 1996. In 1999, we bought another three acres. Theyre adjacent to each other. So, we have 8.76 acres of land in Olde Towne Cordova," Roemer said.
The decision to move to Cordova was made on the projected growth of the area.
"Our growth had been in the east East Memphis and Germantown. The founder of the school had retired and she actually owned the building that we were using in Whitehaven. When she retired we needed to look for a new place for the school. Cordova seemed to be a good choice still easy to get to, an area of growth.
"It looked like this would be a good residential area, which its turning out to be," she said.
The first phase is early childhood and middle school classrooms.
"There are four early childhood classrooms, and the middle school component is really like a suite almost like four classrooms together which the children will flow into. It has a technology lab, a science lab, math and reading lab," she said.
Roemer will be very happy to see students move into the new building in early spring.
"When we bought this property, it took us a while to find it, we leased custom-built modular buildings to house the school because there wasnt time to build. That gave us time to build our enrollment. Weve been growing about 15 percent each year since weve been here," she said.