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New Montessori school opening on Shaker Square amid pandemic

Posted at 5:25 PM, Oct 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-21 18:42:43-04

CLEVELAND — During the COVID-19 pandemic, schools across northeast Ohio have closed their doors to in-person learning and turned to remote learning, but a new school in Cleveland will soon be welcoming students inside its classrooms.

Teachers at Goldenrod Montessori are hoping to bring a different style of learning to Shaker Square and the communities surrounding it, provide a safe learning environment for students, and give families nearby the support they need during this tough time and in years to come.

In just a few short weeks, Jill Evans and Kaitlin Tonelli, both serving as Head of School, are hoping to welcome students into Goldenrod Montessori, teaching kids between the ages of three and six with the Montessori method.

Evans has a master’s degree in early childhood education, taught at Tremont Montessori, and recently retired from her teaching position with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. Tonelli recently graduated from Cleveland State University with a degree in early childhood education and is completing her Montessori certification.

“It's a hands on type of method that teaches children the process of learning, instead of just the product,” Evans said. “So, you know, a product might be how well you do on a test. But instead, children learn about how they discover and - in their own environment - how they learn."

Evans teamed up with Tonelli in June, and picked a prime location for the school on Shaker Square.

“We have Shaker Heights, we have Cleveland Heights, we have Cleveland. So, it just gives every opportunity for every family,” Tonelli said.

The irony of the timing is not lost on either of them as many schools in surrounding districts have turned to virtual learning during the pandemic.

“It's really kind of odd, I think, to be opening a school during COVID,” Evans said.

The pandemic has presented some challenges for them, as they work to get up to code for opening day, which was supposed to be in September, but has been pushed back due to inspection and contracting delays.

“It's just making sure that we're able to get what we need during this time, because a lot of people have limited hours,” Evans said.

Despite that, they say they’ve received nothing but support from the community, with 12 kids already enrolled and hopes that more will follow.

“Actually this week we have gotten a couple of requests because I know a lot of local school districts have continued to go virtual, and unfortunately for some families that's not a viable option,” Tonelli said.

Lili Levy’s three-year-old son Winston is enrolled at Goldenrod. She took him out of daycare at the beginning of the pandemic and is excited to get him back into the classroom with other kids.

“I'm hoping that since it's such a small program that will be able to keep the COVID thing under control,” Levy said.

Evans and Tonelli have a plan for that, following CDC guidelines to make sure students stay safe while getting the lessons they need.

“We're gonna be having the children come in from one door only, come and wash their hands, we have sanitizing stations everywhere,” Tonelli said.

Also, enrollment will be limited to 20 kids during the pandemic, with 10 kids per class.

“It's just excellent for kids, for them to grow and to learn and to flourish,” Evans said.

Goldenrod Montessori is hoping to welcome students in for classes sometime in November. Enrollment applications are still being accepted, more information can be found here.

Jade Jarvis is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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