Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Island Montessori Reopens at New Location, Building Suffered Serious Damage from Hurricane Irma


Children at Island Montessori, in the background is furniture salvaged from the damaged school. Photos by Steve Stefanides

Children at Island Montessori, in the background is furniture salvaged from the damaged school. Photos by Steve Stefanides

Hurricane Irma impacted a wide range of islanders in a number of different ways, but none so tragically as the children of the Island Montessori School and their staff. The school itself was originally housed at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, until it made the move to 579 East Elkcam Circle, a building once owned by Scripps Publishing.

They would join with the principals of Advanced Insurance Underwriters to form a Limited Liability Corporation (“LLC”) named 579 Holdings, and purchase the building at 579 East Elkcam Circle as their permanent home in 2011.

The interior of Island Montessori was seriously damaged when half of the building’s roof was lost to Hurricane Irma.

The interior of Island Montessori was seriously damaged when half of the building’s roof was lost to Hurricane Irma.

Six years later, Hurricane Irma would tear their world apart as it lifted approximately half of the roof off the building and destroyed many of the educational materials utilized by the children who attend the school. This left the school’s founder, Lisa Nguyen, scrambling to find an alternative location for the children and the school’s staff.

Lisa and her husband Jason Bailey began their search soon after the last winds had left the island, and quickly had the good fortune to find a guardian angel in the Presbyterian Church on West Elkcam Circle. “The church couldn’t have been more accommodating and offered us the use of their educational wing to continue the schools operation,” said Nguyen.

This post-Irma photo clearly demonstrates the major roof damage to 579 East Elkcam Circle.

This post-Irma photo clearly demonstrates the major roof damage to 579 East Elkcam Circle.

“The officers and members of our church were so pleased to be able to help out the children on this beautiful island by offering the use of these facilities,” said Senior Pastor Steve Schoof.

It would be Ed Ehlen, of Ehlen Floor Coverings who stepped up and insured that the children would be able to enter their new facility last Monday. He put his people to work installing new flooring over the weekend so that the school’s desks and equipment could be moved in for the Monday morning opening. “I couldn’t tell you how moved we were that he would drop what he was doing on the repairs to his building, which had also suffered damage during the storm,” said Nguyen.

The Montessori School serves 36 children from toddler age through fifth grade, with five teachers and support staff.

At present, the building is being evaluated by engineers and insurance professionals to determine whether it can be repaired or if it will have to be razed and rebuilt.

To learn how you can help to support and rebuild the school you may visit their website at www.islandmontessoriacademy.org for more information.

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