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Montessori School Finds New Home for Its Upper School Students

Feb. 21, 2006 — V.I. Montessori's Upper School on St. Thomas is moving into a new home. Earlier this month, the school purchased a large house and 1.5 acres of land adjacent to the school's current campus.
It's a step up for the 19 students and the teachers, who are now housed in two trailers on the Montessori campus, said school administrator Shournagh McWeeney.
McWeeney said the board of trustees and Parent Teacher Association had a joint meeting last week. As a surprise, the meeting was at the new home.
"They were quite ecstatic," McWeeney said. McWeeney herself, even a week after the purchase, remains quite enthusiastic — opening cabinets and showing off storage space during a house tour Tuesday afternoon.
Board president Michele Shulterbrandt Agurkis, who saw the house for the first time last week, said, "It's a triple winner." The building itself, the land and the location were all benefits to the school, she said.
"The land that goes with it, of course, we're very excited about," Shulterbrandt Agurkis said.
The school purchased the property from Stuart Sonne for $700,000. The asking price, McWeeney said, was much higher. Kris and Tom Brunt made significant financial contributions and helped with planning and logistics.
"It was a natural acquisition for the school, "Kris Brunt said Wednesday, "because it finished out the campus and because it allows for the upper school to be separate from the middle and lower school."
She said it also gives the school the needed breathing room.
"Our children went there and now our grandchildren are going there," Brunt said. "We're just happy we were able to facilitate it."
The 1.5-acre property along Middle Road includes a 3,300-square-foot home with 10 rooms and three and a half bathrooms. Some of the smaller bedrooms may be used as offices, and the larger rooms may serve as classrooms. The purchase increases the school's campus by 30 percent.
Middle Road is a narrow roadway in Estate Nazareth, just behind the school's current campus on Vessup Road. The property backs up to the school's current sports fields, and a winding pathway will allow students to walk from the main campus to the house without crossing any roads.
McWeeney said the school signed the papers on the home Feb. 15, and landscapers started working on the path to the school the next day.
Standing in the middle of the living room, which features three double doors to the balcony and vaulted ceilings, McWeeney said the room would fit "so nicely to a group situation."
The kitchen features a large, built-in refrigerator, dishwasher, range and a huge amount of cabinet space. "We'll have to start giving cooking lessons," McWeeney joked.
Other features include built-in air conditioners in most rooms, built-in bookcases in one of the lower rooms, tile floors throughout and a gas-powered generator.
Montessori administrators plan to use the building as an interim upper school, and ninth- and tenth-grade students will move in by mid-March.
"It's in such good shape that we can use it immediately," Shulterbrandt Agurkis said.
To alleviate concerns of residents along Middle Road, McWeeney said there would be no school-related parking on that road.
"We want to be sure we are not infringing on any of the neighbors," McWeeney said.
Despite the beauty of the home and the amount of land around it, the house was on the market for two years, McWeeney said. The reason: no ocean view.
School administrators are not planning any structural changes initially. On a tour of the house, though, McWeeney mentioned a number of sheetrock-based walls that could easily be torn down, if upper school teachers and administrators decide it is necessary.
But the home may not be the upper school forever. In the coming years, the land and home will be evaluated, along with the rest of the Montessori campus, with long-term growth in mind.
"Everyone will benefit from this," McWeeney said.
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