Sussex Montessori School, a public charter school, purchased a site for its home in Seaford.

Operating from the former Wheaton Farm on Stein Highway, Sussex Montessori School will serve 465 elementary-age students from western Sussex County by 2022.

The school plans to open with 260 students in grades K-3 in June 2020, then add one new grade a year. Any child from the appropriate ages can apply and there is no cost to enroll. A lottery will be held in January 2020 if the school has more applicants than capacity will allow.

According to Sussex Montessori School Board Chair Linda Zankowsky, the school will be unique among public charter schools across the country.

“First, there are few charter schools serving rural areas,” said Zankowsky. “Sussex County is fortunate to have two — Sussex Academy for grades six through 12, and now Sussex Montessori School for younger children. Additionally, of the dozen or so charter Montessori schools we’ve identified in rural areas, none appears to serve a truly diverse student population, which is our goal for Sussex Montessori School.”

The Seaford farm site will be an ideal location for a Montessori curriculum, Zankowsky said, providing nature- and agricultural-based learning opportunities supported by the Montessori hands-on curriculum. The Wheaton property was selected from more than a dozen potential sites in western Sussex County.

Architectural plans and engineering work on the site are almost complete, Zankowsky said, and construction of new classrooms and school offices will begin soon.

The total cost to renovate and construct Sussex Montessori School will be $10 million, of which the school itself will borrow 40%. A campaign committee to raise the balance has now been formed and is beginning calls on community leaders. Initial members of the committee include John Hollis, Amy Walls, Jimmy Hoppa, Lynn Harman, Rob Harman, Sean Steward, Linda Zankowsky, Lauren Connelly and Jessica Bradley.

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