In 1961, Alcuin Montessori School was founded by six local Oak Park families looking for a different way of educating their children. The group was driven, innovative, curious, and without fail stopped at nothing to provide a level of Montessori education and excellence like no other. They did not let setbacks get in their way, nor did they take no for an answer. They did not follow what all other educational systems were doing, and they created a plan based on what they knew was best for the children and then set out to put the plan in place. Our founders insisted on the absolute best teaching staff, an incredibly beautiful and meticulously designed classroom, and an exceptional curriculum to meet the needs of all their children’s individual learning styles.
Fast forward to 2020, Alcuin is still going strong and providing in-person Montessori excellence during a pandemic. These words may surprise some or worry some. It may make you question the decision of the leaders of our school. However, I am here to share our story of continued focus and diligence in meeting the child’s needs. In early summer, we were provided with the reopening guidelines, just like every other school, daycare, and business in Illinois. We put a plan in place for how we would follow those guidelines, how we would keep our children and staff safe and healthy, and how we would meet the increased financial obligations with a decreased enrollment capacity. More importantly, we planned for how we would continue to provide our Montessori pedagogy to the highest degree with all of the new regulations and health concerns. We surrounded ourselves with a team of people dedicated to this process, and after countless hours, we presented this plan to our families and welcomed them back to our school community.
Many were thrilled to be back to in-person learning, and others were not quite ready to return. We’ve made a plan that worked for almost all of our families and had a deep respect for any family’s decision during this time. We entered those first few school days with slight trepidation as we didn’t know what to expect. How would the children feel about the changes to their physical environment? Could even our youngest 2-year-olds keep their masks on? Could we all adapt to keeping close while staying a safe distance away? What was most important was that our entire community of staff and families were on board. We held an open communication line between staff and families and insisted on a “we are all in this together” mantra.
We are so fortunate and pleased to say that Alcuin being open for in-person learning is truly a beautiful, and successful, story. Our children are happy to come to school every morning. They are thriving in their academic journeys, and they are immersed in much-needed social and emotional development. It’s been an incredible time for our school over the last eight months. We’ve grown and adapted in ways we’d never imagined.
The children are, and always will be, our top focus; COVID has not changed this. Our routines are slightly different. There’s additional cleaning and sanitizing, but that’s not such a stretch for a Montessori classroom to begin with. Our children easily follow the health and safety guidelines that we put in place, and our staff are the most amazing humans you will ever meet. It seems that the new norm is now the norm, and we are comfortable in our process and confident in our decision to remain open and provide this learning experience for our students.
We have had two positive cases so far, and both children presented mild symptoms for just a couple of days and easily recovered. None of the positive cases were spread to any other students, or staff, in our school community. Upon learning of a positive case, or exposure, our staff moves quickly into action for quarantining and beginning remote learning. It’s an entirely seamless process, and our children don’t miss a beat.
We have a few remaining spaces in some of our levels and are always happy to share more information and answer questions about Alcuin. We have a rich history in the Oak Park community, and we will continue to put our roots deep into the ground. We’ve embraced the challenges of COVID and found a way to rise above and continue our Alcuin journey. This is the world we live in. We’ve chosen to embrace it and make the most of it, and live our lives of commitment to providing our Alcuin students with the best possible Montessori education.
A blog by various Alcuin staff members.