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Some Considerations & First Steps

These steps will take you well along the path to a school you can call your own. 

Research Montessori education

  • Read the writings of Dr. Maria Montessori and others to gain a thorough understanding of Montessori principles and techniques. You will find suggested readings on the School Support MaterialsTeacher Support Materials, and Family Support Materials pages of our Web site.
  • Take an orientation course on Montessori philosophy at an AMS-affiliated teacher education program.
  • Visit Montessori schools and programs. Meet with school heads, other administrators, and teachers. Observe students in their classes.

Define your vision for the school

  • Create an initial mission statement.
  • Decide which education levels to serve—initially and in the long-term.
  • Will your school accommodate special populations, such as low-income families or children with special needs?
  • Consider including special areas of interest, such as organic farming, and potential auxiliary programs (after-school activities; summer camp).

Check state and local regulations including licensing, health, safety, fire, and space requirements for

  • Private schools
  • Public schools
  • Preschools and day care centers
A PDF of the U.S. Department of Education’s “State Regulation of Private Schools” is available here. Or, you can access it online.

An article, “How Preschool and Child Care Work: A State-by-State Guide,” is available on the website.

Find and investigate a potential locale

  • What kinds of schools and programs already exist in the area?
  • Is there a need for a Montessori school at the level you are planning? How close is the nearest one?
  • Is the community interested in Montessori education and likely to support it?
  • Are suitable properties available (ideally with access to outdoor space)?

Select a site

  • Check local zoning regulations.
  • Determine accessibility—major roads, traffic patterns, parking.
  • Consider potential for expansion.

Determine the composition and needs of the community

  • Income levels
  • Ethnic and cultural backgrounds
  • Ages – infant & toddler, early childhood, elementary, and/or secondary
  • Length of school day – half-day, full-day, extended day, combination

Consult an attorney to select the appropriate legal structure

Non-profit school 

  • Operated by a board comprised of community members, parents, and/or non-parent supporters.
  • Needs to be incorporated, typically with the help of an attorney.
  • Requires a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt determination letter from the Internal Revenue Service.
  • If the head of school is not Montessori-credentialed, appoint a credentialed director of education.

For-profit school

  • Operated by a sole proprietor, partnership, limited liability company, or corporation.
  • If the head of school is not Montessori-credentialed, appoint a credentialed director of education.

Obtain legal advice concerning

  • State and local requirements
  • Lease agreements; mortgage or other financing needs
  • Writing and establishing a constitution and by-laws
  • Establishing a board of directors (if needed)
  • Creating handbooks for staff, families, and board
  • Drafting staff and student contracts
  • Staff benefits, e.g., health insurance, sick/personal days, retirement accounts

Consider finances (in consultation with an accountant)

Initial outlay

  • Facilities (purchased or rented)
  • Renovations (may require an architect, zoning attorney, contractor)
  • Age-appropriate, Montessori-oriented furnishings
  • Montessori learning materials
  • Outdoor facilities
  • Office equipment
  • Software-based financial tracking system

Operating budget

  • Rent or mortgage
  • Maintenance
  • Depreciation
  • Interest on loans
  • Consumable materials
  • Taxes: federal, state, and city income taxes if for-profit; appropriate payroll taxes
  • Salaries: teachers, assistants, administrative, secretarial, custodial
  • Insurance: health; workers compensation; school directors and officers; commercial liability
  • Fees: licensing; AMS and other professional memberships
  • Professional development; teacher education
  • Contingency fund
  • Scholarships; financial aid

Income sources

  • School tuition
  • Summer camp tuition
  • Application fees
  • Extended care and/or after-school activities
  • Fundraising initiatives, e.g. annual fund, capital campaign, silent auction

Hire qualified teaching staff who

  • Meet written job descriptions
  • Include lead teachers credentialed by teacher education programs accredited by the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education (MACTE)
  • Meet state and local requirements
  • Sign a written contract for duties, salary, benefits, etc.
  • Serve the needs of auxiliary programs, e.g., physical education, music, art

Connect with the community

  • Join a local Montessori networking group
  • Get to know teachers and administrators at other local schools.
  • Participate in public education events.
  • Volunteer to serve on community advisory boards.
  • Private schools can join the local chamber of commerce.
  • Explore a relationship with nearby Montessori teacher education programs regarding continuing education for staff.

Recruit students

  • Hold open houses, classroom observation visits, workshops, etc.
  • Give presentations at feeder schools, community centers, libraries, etc.
  • Spread the word through personal contacts.
  • Advertise via local newspapers, radio, Internet, phone directories, doctors’ offices, community bulletin boards.
  • Create a Web site and brochures that present a unified message.
  • Optimize search engine listings.
  • Become a member of AMS and other local and national organizations.
  • Be accessible by e-mail, telephone, text. Respond promptly to inquiries and interview requests.

Establish registration procedures

  • Accept students on a formally stated, objective basis.
  • Create age- and gender-balanced classes to the extent possible.
  • In a tuition-based setting, require a signed payment schedule and non-refundable deposit with registration.
  • Plan orientation for new families and students.

Educate parents

  • Organize parent study groups; offer parent education classes.
  • Schedule parent-teacher conferences.
  • Provide a parent library.
  • Communicate regularly via newsletters, e-mails, daily progress notes from teachers.

Develop a strategic plan covering

  • Financial security
  • Curriculum development and improvement
  • Ongoing professional development
  • Attaining AMS accreditation
  • Upkeep of the school facility, furnishings, and materials

The American Montessori Society can provide specific information and support with respect to many of the details involved in starting a school, including cost estimates, supply sources, consultants, and suggested speakers.

AMS membership confers additional support: teacher/administrator employment postings on our Web site; participation in various insurance plans; a 5% discount on Montessori materials and furniture from Nienhuis Montessori USA, and free salary and tuition survey results (may be purchased by non-members).

For more information, contact Carla Hofland, AMS director of member services.

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