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Montessori, dual-immersion, Catholic school eyes fall opening

Likely the first of its kind in the nation, the private Waterfront Academy – a Catholic, Montessori and dual Spanish- and English-immersion school – is preparing to open its doors to students this fall.
As Waterfront Academy moves through the accreditation process set forth by Association Montessori Internationale and the American Montessori Society, its soft opening is scheduled for next month and a dual-immersion summer camp shortly thereafter. The school will be located inside Bethel Pentecostal Tabernacle Church at 60 Eye Street SW.
Tuition will be $15,000 per year. Yet the cost has not deterred prospective applicants. Melissa Rohan, president of Waterfront Academy’s board of directors and its founder, says her phone has been “ringing steadily” since applications to attend the school in its inaugural 2014-15 school year began being accepted last week.
The school “is my fourth child,” laughs Rohan, a resident of Southwest and a former board member of Potomac Lighthouse Charter School in NE. (She’s pregnant now and also mother to Henry and Penelope.) The daughter of a mother from Cuba and an American father, Rohan’s first language was Spanish.
As her own children approached school age, Rohan, who taught ESL to adults in Miami and D.C., wondered if she could find for them a Catholic school that featured language immersion and Montessori-certified teachers.
“You can find Catholic Montessori schools and dual-immersion Montessori,” but to find all three in one school is was extremely rare across the globe, Rohan says.
In accordance with Montessori tradition, children of different ages will be taught in the same classroom, so Waterfront expects this fall to have a preschool through first grade room for children aged 3 to 6, and a second room of children ages 6 to 9, or 1st grade through 3rd. Each classroom will have one teacher speaking only Spanish to the children and another speaking only English.
Forty students in place this fall will bring the school to its current capacity, Rohan says.
Plans include adding another floor to the school by the beginning of the 2015-16 school year in addition to a classroom for children ages 9 to 12. “As long as we have the enrollment numbers,” Rohan says, Waterfront could be accommodating children through age 15 by 2019.
In addition to getting registered with D.C.’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education, Waterfront Academy is now hiring teachers and staff. Teachers must be Montessori-certified and hold college degrees. “We are making sure we have everything in order,” Rohan says.
Rebeca Shackleford, who has worked for DCPS and Latin American Montessori Bilingual Public Charter School, and who received Montessori training in Mexico, has been named Head of School.

Read more articles by Amy Rogers Nazarov.

Amy Rogers Nazarov is a Washington, D.C.-based journalist with more than 25 years experience as a staff reporter and a freelance writer, covering technology, adoption, real estate, and lifestyle topics from food & drink to home organizing. Her byline has appeared in Cooking Light, The Washington Post, Slate, Washingtonian, The Writer, Smithsonian, The Washington Post Express, The Baltimore Examiner, The Sacramento Bee, Cure, The Washington Times, Museum, and many other outlets. She is a member of the American Society of Journalists & Authors and tweets at @WordKitchenDC.
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