Oct. 1, 2004 If there's one thing they do well at Virgin Islands Montessori school, it's throw a good party. That comes from Shournagh McWeeney herself, who has been the administrator of the school for 25 years. To celebrate its 40th anniversary, the V.I. Montessori school on St. Thomas is hosting Family Fun Music Fest Under the Stars Saturday, Oct. 2, on the Montessori grounds.
"When you think about the very beginning, it was 12 parents who were all friends who wanted something. They wanted something that wasn't already available on the island," said McWeeney. "It felt very much like family then, and we try to make our school feel like a community. We have a lot of functions for parents and children. And we keep our parents very active."
Starting at 4 p.m. Saturday, Koko and the Sunshine Band, a quelbe band from St. John, will take the stage. At 5 p.m., local favorites Nicky Russell, Janet Reiter and Morgan Whalen will perform. The Headline Band will start its calypso sounds at 7 p.m. And from 8 p.m. and beyond, the crowd will hear Davis Murray and Co. and Lightening Phil and the Low Pressure System.
Montessori opened in 1964 with 12 students. Gradually, as enrollment increased, preschool classrooms were added, then lower elementary (ages 6 to 9). In 1974, the school grew to accommodate students up to age 12 (thats a sixth grade equivalent) where it stayed for many years. According to McWeeney, a middle school was added eight years ago. This year, for the first time, a high school with nine freshman students has opened. A grade will be added each year until the high school reaches 12th grade.
According to McWeeney, the Montessori Method of learning allows each child to develop at his or her own pace, but at the same time allows them as individuals to fulfill their fullest potential. "It's very successful. Our school right now is full at our lower levels. This is a sign of more families looking for a method of education that is different from other schools that follow a more traditional learning pattern," McWeeney said.
Between acts on Saturday, the crowd will be entertained by Steve Prosterman, the juggling clown, and several moon bouncers will be set up for the kids. Food from the Middle School Bar-B-Q and Kokopelli Café, beer, wine and soft drinks will be available. Tickets are $5 for students, $10 for adults, and children under 5 get in free.
"We want to reach out beyond the Montessori community for people to come. It will be a wonderful family opportunity," said Pamela Berkowsky, the PTA representative to the Board of Trustees. "Montessori has made so many contributions to the Virgin Islands community over the last 40 years. Along the same vein, this is a musical gift to the community."
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