The Town of Herndon is considering a plan to allow Peppertree Montessori School to open at 400 Herndon Parkway.
An application asking for a special exception that would permit the opening of a private school or daycare at Sugarland West Business Center is slated to be discussed at today’s Planning Commission work session.
A special exception is needed since the school would lie in the Office & Light Industrial zoning district. The other occupant of 400 Herndon Parkway is Honeywell, an aircraft parts manufacturer.
According to the staff report, a recommendation from staff not been made yet to the Planning Commission.
This is due to a revised plan from the school detailing parking location, logistics of child pick-up/drop-off, and the size/location of the fenced play area still being needed. It is expected to be provided prior to the public hearing, which is set to take place on March 22.
The Peppertree Montessori school would use the existing building and no construction would be needed at this time, a Montessori school official confirmed. It’s simply an “occupancy change.”
Because of this, if approval happens soon, the school could start accepting students and open as soon as May, a Peppertree Montessori representative told Reston Now. Everything is currently “on track” for this to happen. The school is also currently scheduling site visits and tours.
Montessori learning is one that’s focused on individualized, personalized, student-led learning based on principles developed by Italian physician Maria Montessori in the early 20th century.
The proposed 4,951-square-foot school would hold up to 50 students, ranging in ages of newborns at 6 weeks of age to eight-year-old third graders. An outdoor fenced-in play area is also expected to be added.
Screenshot via Herndon Planning Commission Staff Report
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Reston resident Garrett Wilhelm, who for years worked at Sunset Hills and most recently was director of The Boyd School’s Westfield campus, and Rodney Berthold, formerly the middle school dean at The Boyd School, are teaming up for the Berthold Academy for the Gifted and Talented.
Berthold Academy will be the area’s first Montessori school that focuses only on grades one through eight, said Wilhelm. Most Montessori schools start with or are strictly preschool programs.
“There are 57 Montessori schools in Northern Virginia — 23 of them in Reston/Herndon/Great Falls,” said Wilhelm. “There are only four in Northern Virginia that do elementary and middle school grades. None of them are elementary and middle school only.”
Montessori education is an approach developed by Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori that emphasizes independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological, physical, and social development.
Wilhelm says that method is ideal for children in elementary and middle school. Rather than lecture-based learning, students in mixed-age classrooms learn through self-directed discovery and small collaborative groups.
The school is not going for full accreditation by the American Montessori Society because it wants to mix in its own curriculum to prepare middle schoolers for traditional high school, Wilhelm said.
Tuition is expected to be about $15,000 a year. Fifteen students are already enrolled, and the first-year goal is to start with 40 students, said Wilhelm.
Berthold Academy already has a lineup of unique classes and speciality teachers, including:
- Yoga and Mindfulness – taught by certified yoga teacher Jessica Simpson
- Culinary Arts – taught by Emilia Cirker, a recent contestant on TV’s “Next Food Network Star.”
- Music Production – taught by Mix Major’s DJ Enferno, who has worked with musicians such as Madonna.
- Entrepreneurial Education – taught by founder of IFormBuilder, Sze Wong.
- IT/Coding/Programming – Taught by the team at IFormBuilder
- Gardening (Farm to Table) – A full gardening program taught by Emilia Cirker in which the children will learn the value of growing, harvesting, and cooking organic produce.
- STEAM program and Spanish instruction.
Wilhelm said the he and Berthold are very close to signing a lease for school space in Reston.
Want to learn more? Attend an information session Feb. 11 at The Harrison Apartments, 1800 Jonathan Way, Reston at 6:30 p.m. Babysitting will be provided.