Private preschool is growing up in Visalia

VISALIA, Calif. (KFSN) -- A private preschool is growing in Visalia and will now expand to include an elementary school.

A groundbreaking for the Visalia Montessori School took place Monday on Linwood Street and Caldwell Avenue.

Work is already underway on the site of Visalia's newest elementary school. Crews are removing the roof from a house and renovating the inside.

"The building is kind of in the shape of U right now and we're going to turn it into a big square with two classrooms," said Melissa Dabadie, a teacher at Visalia Montessori School.

Co-founder of both of Visalia's Montessori preschools Nina Clancy says enrollment is on the rise. Clancy started Greenhouse Montessori School back in 1981. Then, seven years ago, A Place to Grow Montessori opened for students as young as 18 months.

"We had to add two additional classrooms and in the fall the fifth one will start, and we're full with the waiting list there," said Clancy. "Greenhouse has always had a waiting list."

Clancy says there's a need to expand the private school past kindergarten and through elementary grades.

The Visalia Montessori School will be the only non-religious private elementary school in Visalia. The curriculum will be based on the Montessori Method developed by Dr. Maria Montessori in the 1900s -- emphasizing independence and natural development.

Melissa Dabadie will be teaching the first group of first and second graders.

"They change their developmental plane really from trying to be independent and learning how to do personal skills to doing academic skills. So it kind of shifts more to learning your academics in the elementary schools," said Dabadie.

Crews are working fast to get the two-classroom building ready for the fall. An old windmill originally built in the 1930s will move to the front corner of the property to serve as the school's landmark.

In total, the $2 million project has high hopes to be a big success.

"Children want to learn, and we just have to provide the beautiful environment for it. And right now this doesn't look like it but this is going to be beautiful when it's finished," said Clancy.

The first day of school will be on September 2.

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