The new Montessori High School of Kentucky opened for classes in Lexington on Thursday, with the first order of business a round-table discussion of how best to keep the instructional spaces clean.
Running that discussion were the students.
Curriculum director Winni van Gessel told them to tackle the cleanup issue and come up with their own solution, saying, "It's going to be your school."
"Community discussions" such as this one will be held weekly at the Montessori high school. The idea is for students to be active participants in running the school, organizers said, up to and including having three students on the 15-member board of directors.
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"This will be a school, not just for the kids, but with the kids," van Gessel told a small crowd of parents, students, faculty members and supporters who joined Mayor Jim Gray for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the school.
Fittingly, Brier Campbell, a freshman, cut the ribbon.
The new Montessori high school, the first such secondary school in Kentucky, is located in the basement of St. Augustine's Episcopal Chapel on Rose Street, immediately adjacent to the University of Kentucky campus.
It will follow the basic principles pioneered by 19th-century Italian educator Maria Montessori. She was convinced that children learned best if they were left free to choose and pursue educational activities in an atmosphere carefully prepared for their age groups.
The new school is small and probably won't ever be large, but it's already growing. Eleven students signed up initially, but a 12th arrived Thursday. There are seven faculty members, including one from the Netherlands and one from Egypt. Enrollment eventually could reach about 40, officials say.
The school will operate in conjunction with UK, and students will have access to UK's library and computer systems. University faculty members will be available to help, and UK education dean Mary John O'Hair will serve on the Montessori high school's board of directors.
No one at Thursday's opening was more excited about all that than Chris Brannock-Wanter of Paris. She is an Episcopal priest and an artist, and she'll be teaching art history and studio art at the Montessori high school. Her son, Joseph, is a student at the school.
"Montessori high school approached our diocese about using this chapel building, and that was the first I'd heard about it," she said. "I got so excited about their presentation that I started emailing them, and here I am.
"Can you imagine what it will be like coming to a school like this? The students will have access to the university, to lectures, to the library. It's going to bring so many things together."