Judith Hoyer Montessori School is growing, with a new middle school added this year.
“I’m really excited,” said Lily Thomas, 12, of Cheverly one of the Landover school’s first cadre of seventh-graders. “I was really glad there’s going to be a middle school, because I didn’t want to leave. I’ve been here since pre-k, and this school is so amazing.”
The other two public Montessori schools in the county, John Hanson in Oxon Hill and Robert Goddard in Lanham, go up to the eighth grade, but Hoyer stopped at sixth grade.
Principal Tracey Spivey White said rising seventh-graders had the option to apply for seats at the northern or southern school, but were not guaranteed a placement.
“Someone could come in from an out-of-state Montessori school and get into middle school easier than one of our students,” White said.
Kate Keplinger of Cheverly, parent of two students at the school, said parents have been fighting for a Hoyer middle school for five years.
Keplinger said that when the school moved in 2012 from the Judith Hoyer Early Education Center in Cheverly to the former Oakcrest Elementary School building, it was done with the understanding that the school would one day expand.
“The conversation was focused around when we had enough kids for a full class, then we’d get our middle school,” Keplinger said. “The problem was that as families got into the fourth grade, fifth grade, sixth grade, and saw there was no middle school, they started going elsewhere, so we never had enough kids for a class. It was a Catch 22.”
Keplinger said a group of parents met two years ago and formed a committee to advocate for a middle school.
Parents met with school system administrators and CEO Kevin Maxwell, said Chelsea Henderson, parent of a seventh- and a fifth-grader at Hoyer.
“Dr. Maxwell was very supportive,” Henderson said. “That was pivotal, having his support.”
The expansion was part of Maxwell’s $1.81 billion budget for the current school year, which saw expansions for all the school system’s specialty programs.
Sarah Clark of Bowie, president of the Hoyer PTA and mother of a fifth-grader, said having a middle school at Hoyer provides a sense of continuity.
“Middle school really starts with sixth grade, so not having that opportunity here disrupts the Montessori education process,” Clark said.
The new middle school wing currently consists of four classrooms, White said, with eighth grade being added next year.
On Monday, the school held an open house for parents and middle school students to tour the new classrooms.
Grace Brigham, 10, of Bowie, a sixth grade student at Hoyer, said she’s very excited she’ll be able to continue her education at Hoyer next year.
“It’s been an amazing experience, and I didn’t want it to end, so I get to be here until I go to high school,” Grace said. “I’m really glad that I get to expand my horizons, and I get to learn and experience more things now without leaving this building.”