Maria Montessori Charter Academy re-opens in Rocklin

One of first state-funded charter schools moves to new campus
By: Jon Brines, Special to The Placer Herald
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Rocklin’s Maria Montessori Charter Academy is taking a giant leap forward this school year by moving all of its classes to a new $8 million campus located on Wildcat Boulevard. Earlier this year, school officials consolidated class locations spread out in portable classrooms on the Rocklin Elementary campus and at a commercial building on Sunset Boulevard. “The facilities are incredible compared to what we were use to,” said MMCA principal Brent Boothby. “It took us four years to jump through all the hoops to get here.” In 2004, the state of California voted for Proposition 55, which allocated $300 million for charter school construction. MMCA’s multi-million dollar complex houses 230 kindergarten through eighth-grade students and is the first charter school in Northern California built with state construction bond funds, Boothby said. Half of the funds were covered under the state grant but the rest will have to be paid back at a 2 percent interest rate, Boothby said. The new campus includes basketball courts, a full size soccer field, a 36-computer lab and a library. The 12 classrooms, cafeteria/gym and administration building were modeled after other schools in the Rocklin Unified School District. Their partnership with RUSD also provides landscaping, hot lunches and help with special education classes. The campus opened Aug. 27, but officials celebrated with a ribbon cutting earlier this month. Charter schools are independently run and tuition free, but are tax-supported schools, created with a charter that mandates a different educational philosophy and curriculum than public schools. “This is the second school I have ever been to and it’s a lot different,” said third-grader Cameron Pedro. “They don’t put that much pressure on you. Everything is organized and you can always find the stuff that you need.” Pedro’s class has two teachers in a combined class of second and third-graders. “Child directed but it’s prepared by the teachers,” said kindergarten and first-grade teacher Julia Bass who works in tandem with colleague Karye Wells. “I had a cold last week and she was able to help me out. We share ideas and collaborate.” “It works really well,” Wells said. “Mrs. Bass does the majority of the language program and I do the majority of the math program. Mrs. Bass does science and I do cultural and social studies.” Boothby said his teachers pride themselves on the Montessori philosophy that allows the students to use a hands-on approach to introduce a concept and then work with the abstract pen and paper. As an example, students are taught to use checkerboard multiplication for a hands-on math lesson. “We’ll have fourth and fifth-graders that can read at a high school level,” said Boothby. “We can accommodate things like that.” The school requires parents to volunteer at the school at least 40 hours over the school year. “It’s a team effort,” said parent and volunteer Bruce Houdesheldt. “For the first time we did goal setting. We agreed on what we would work on with our child.” His son, second-grader Cole Houdesheldt especially likes liberal arts. “The funniest thing I get to do is spelling,” said 8-year-old Cole. “We currently have waiting lists for each grade level,” said Boothby. Boothby said now that the students have a place of their own he hopes to continue to support them by adding a pre-school and before and after school care programs.