Montessori Exploratory Committee

An early conceptual design by the Tempe Union High School District Montessori Exploratory Committee for a stand-alone high school site near Loop 202 and Kyrene Road.


The Montessori Exploratory Committee has moved forward in its year-long proposal to build a stand-alone Montessori high school within Tempe Union, gaining added support from parents.

During a meeting with the Tempe Union High School Governing Board, parents, school staff and the community this week, the committee and governing board moved forward in exploring two stand-alone site options.

For most parents with children in Montessori schools around the Valley, a common concern is not having a school to send kids to after middle school grades.

“My question is why wouldn’t we do it,” said Desert Garden Montessori parent Michael Ellenby to the committee. “It has great outcomes for the kids and the Montessori environment builds a community of kids and a community of parents.”

The Montessori education approach emphasizes a less traditional model with students allowing more freedom, a small school community, and discovery instruction through hands-on materials as opposed to direct instruction.

Jennifer Bowen, a member of the committee, said the land swap site in Ahwatukee at Desert Foothills Parkway would cost the district $13.6 million for the section of land just south of Chandler Boulevard.

Though the committee favored a land swap location near Arizona State University as opposed to Ahwatukee, another option for a high school site near Loop 202 and Kyrene Road would provide a source of income for the district.

Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Baca, however, stated financial concern for this lease option.

“This will lock us in long after we will be here,” said Baca. “We have to ask ourselves what are we committing our community to financially in terms of business.”

Committee member and McClintock High School teacher Kim McElwain said she likes the lease option because of the site design’s focus on sustainability.

“There is an over-arching mission of sustainability with looking at environmental and energy solutions,” McElwain said.

Shetal Walters, executive director of Desert Garden Montessori and a member of the committee, said she’d prefer a land swap option close to ASU because of the proximity and resources.

“That one just feels better,” Walters said.

Keystone Montessori parent Stacy Burnett, after speaking to the committee, said she would also like to see the high school built within the district.

Though more questions need to be answered by the committee, such as training for teachers, more details on the two options, and research, Burnett encouraged the governing board and committee to continue.

“If there’s a will, there’s a way,” she said, drawing applause.

For more information about the Montessori high school project, visit

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or Follow her on Twitter @dmartinezAFN.

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