Local Montessori school to relocate to Carver Center

Barbara Hootman

In July, the Swannanoa Valley Montessori School is returning to its roots by moving back to the Carver Community Center, the place where it began in 2003.

The Montessori school started at the Carver Center, built in 1951 for black students in Black Mountain and known as the Carver School, in 2003. In 2004, a property at 130 Center Ave. was purchased for the school, and its pre-school and primary school division moved there. In 2014, the elementary school division moved to the Center Avenue location. In July, both divisions will move back to the Carver Center.

The school signed the lease for space at the Carver Center in April with its owner, the town of Black Mountain.

“This is a great situation for both groups,” said Casey Conner, director of the town's recreation and parks department. “Montessori gets a long-term home, and we have a full-time tenant that will help support the center.”

At left, Katie Hanning, director of Swannanoa Valley Montessori School, explains to parent Morgan David where classrooms will be at Carver Center.

“Carver feels very much like our home already,” Katie Hanning, the school's said.  “Carver was originally designed as a school, including large classroom sizes with lots of natural lighting, large hallways, gym access, open cafeteria room and space for two separate playgrounds suitable for various ages. Additionally, Black Mountain Recreation and Parks Department has been a wonderful partner, interacting with our students and parents, showing an interest in our school, and a dedication to preserve and enhance the building and property.”

The Montessori school will occupy four classrooms and two office spaces within Carver.

Morgan David is the mother of two Montessori students.  John Lloyd David is a rising second-grade student, and Lucie David is a rising kindergarten student. Morgan David is excited about the move to Carver Community Center.

“I appreciate the history of the Carver School, and I am delighted that all the grades at (the school) will be housed there,” she said.  “Our school is growing, and we definitely need more space.  We also need more outside space for playgrounds and Carver has that. Most of us are sentimental about our current campus, but we have to move to make progress. The children know that the school is moving. John Lloyd (her son) has spent time visiting at Carver, and he considers it the ‘Big Boy School.’”

Carver Colored School closed in 1966. The space was re-opened in 1976 as the Carver Optional School and served children from the Swannanoa Valley until 1986, said Jill Edwards, the town's health services program administrator.

The town of Black Mountain purchased the property from Buncombe County and opened the Carver Community Center in 1986.  Many organizations, including the school, have rented space there through the years. Currently, Art in the Afternoon rents space there, and several groups use space for their programs like karate, line dancing, and Girl Scouts.

“While part of Carver will house a school, there will still be a lot of the building used for other purposes,” Edwards said.  “We want to be sure we’re making the best use of the community’s resource that is Carver.  We’re excited about the Montessori School returning to Carver. ... They’re great to work with.  We love things that bring life to Carver and offer opportunities to the community.  There will still be other space in Carver available for groups to rent and use, including the kitchen which we’re upgrading now.”

Erin Van Note, director of development and curriculum at the Montessori School, said it will be good to have space to grow the school's programs.

“There has been a remarkable cohesiveness among teachers and students at our current campus. I am sure we will continue to grow the cohesiveness at Carver," she said. "We will be re-using a space for its original purpose, and that is a good idea.”

Kristi Beaver, the lead teacher for grades pre-school through sixth grade, will be returning to the school building she attended in the fourth grade.

“Our school (the Montessori school) will be more centrally located at Carver and (will) be a part of the community more than it is now," she said. "I don’t think there is anything negative about moving the school.”