Starting a Montessori School
Key areas to consider for launching a Montessori program.
Educators worldwide have successfully pursued their dreams of opening Montessori schools—there are now over 5,000 Montessori schools in the United States alone.
Do you share the dream of planting a Montessori school in your community? AMS can help guide you on that journey.
As a first step, consider becoming an AMS member. You can purchase school membership even before you hire your first teacher or lay the first brick in your classroom walls. Your member benefits will include the services of a consultant who can help you move along a Pathway of Continuous School Improvement. You will also have access to unique resources, such as sample forms, policies, and handbooks, and helpful "how-to" documents.
You are embarking on a great adventure. These are the keys areas in which you will engage as you launch your Montessori school.
- Mission, Vision, & Values
- Your School Community
- Physical Space & Materials
- Finding Your Niche
- Legal Matters
Mission, Vision, & Values
One of the first things we recommend is creating mission and vision statements for your school. These will lay a foundation for all that comes next.
Your mission statement explains why your school does what it does. Write it as though the school is already open.
We partner with our diverse community, using authentic Montessori principles, to reveal each child’s innate love of learning and prepare our children to thrive in a complex world. —Cambridge Montessori School, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Your vision statement is aspirational; it is what you are striving for at your Montessori school.
Evolve in relevant and measurable ways the principles of Montessori education for the benefit of the children of the 21st century. —Montessori School of Lake Forest, Lake Forest, Illinois
Your values set the culture of your school community; they are the fundamental beliefs upon which your school and its behavior will be based.
Large or small, for-profit or not-for-profit, all organizations need to articulate a vision, a mission, and shared values.
Your School Community
Hiring teachers who hold Montessori teaching credentials for the age level at which they are teaching is central to the quality your school will offer.
If teachers’credentials were issued by the American Montessori Society, you can feel confident that they have completed a course of study that meets rigorous standards.
AMS also recognizes credentials issued by the Association Montessori Internationale and any other program accredited by the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education as qualifying teachers for working in Montessori classrooms.
Other staffing considerations include:
- Meeting state-mandated student-to-teacher ratios
- Hiring school administrators and facility managers
- Hiring specialists, such as art teachers and speech therapists, who may or may not be Montessori-credentialed
Administrators of schools that are members of AMS may post employment opportunities on our Jobs Board. They can also search resumes for candidates.
What about the children? There are many ways to engage prospective students for your new school:
- Create a website and admissions materials that present a unified message.
- Hold open houses, classroom observation visits, and workshops.
- Give presentations at feeder schools, community centers, and libraries.
- Advertise via local newspapers, radio, the Internet, phone directories, doctors’ offices, and community bulletin boards.
To establish credibility and standardization, you need to develop application and enrollment procedures and accept students on a formally stated, objective basis. In a tuition-based setting, require a signed payment schedule and non-refundable deposit with registration, and develop a process for awarding financial aid/scholarships (if applicable).
Physical Space & Materials
What kind of facility will your school require? You will need to consider land and building needs and whether you will lease, buy, build, or renovate the space. Are suitable properties available, ideally with access to the outdoors? Carefully examine each space’s accessibility—including public transportation, major roads, traffic patterns, parking, and traffic flow during drop-off and pick-up. Also plan for potential expansions in the future.
Regardless of the ages you will be serving, the ideal Montessori classroom will be safe, beautiful, and inviting. The organization, design, and flow of the furnishings will embody the elements of the Montessori approach. This includes distinct areas for the different curricular areas and an environment that accommodates exploration and choice.
Of course, each classroom will also be uniquely suited to the needs of the students. For example, Early Childhood rooms should feature low chairs, tables, and sinks; reachable shelves; a quiet corner for reading; and child-sized kitchen tools—elements that support independence and develop small-motor skills.
AMS recognizes the use of Montessori materials as integral to quality Montessori implementation. To that end, the AMS School Accreditation Commission and AMS Teacher Education Action Commission offer these lists of suggested learning materials for each Montessori classroom level:
Finding Your Niche
Carefully assess the community where you plan on starting your school to determine if your mission and vision are realistic, given the needs, wants, and resources of the families who live there.
For example, have you been strategic in selecting the Montessori program level(s) you will offer? Do you feel confident there is a demand for them, beyond what other local schools are already offering?
Will your desired school structure—such as independent, private, proprietary, or charter—be supported by the socio-economic realities of the area?
What programming will best suit your prospective families, and are you prepared to provide it? For example, will you found a school that is full-day, half-day, faith-based, language immersive, and/or inclusive of auxiliary services for children with special needs?
Starting your school requires developing a detailed budget that shows projected expenses and income. To maximize your success, we recommend engaging the services of a financial professional, projecting income conservatively, and allowing for the unexpected.
Examples of initial expenses include: purchase or rental of a property, construction, renovations, architect, contractor, legal and financial services, classroom furnishings, Montessori learning materials, outdoor play spaces, office equipment, technology, and marketing materials.
As you plan, be sure to project your faculty and staff salaries. Among other expenses to include in your operating budget are: rent or mortgage, facilities maintenance, depreciation, interest on loans, taxes, insurance (health, workers’ compensation, school directors and officers, commercial liability), scholarships, and financial aid. You will also want to include funds for ongoing professional development and professional memberships, such as AMS membership for your school and teachers.
Income & Capital
Income sources can include school tuition, application fees, extended care and/or summer activities, and fundraising. Financing options may include personal savings, small business loans, personal loans, private investors, and/or grants.
Legal counsel will be essential to helping you navigate such matters as:
- School type
- Lease agreements and/or mortgages
- Writing agreements and contracts (e.g., employment, admission)
- Writing policies (e.g., non-discrimination, bullying)
- State and local regulations, including zoning, licensing, health, safety, fire, student-to-teacher ratios, and space requirements*
Also, as applicable:
- Writing by-laws
- Developing a board of trustees
- Applying for tax exemption
* The U.S. Department of Education’s “State Regulation of Private Schools” may serve as a helpful resource.