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Hillside Montessori announces construction of new school near Great Wolf Lodge

Hillside Montessori will be building a brand-new school near Great Wolf Lodge.

Bethany Hedrick, director of the private elementary school, announced the news during Thursday night’s Wanderlust event at Del’avant Event Center.  The new school will be built on five acres of land donated by Southpoint Realty Group, which is managing the LaGrange Station property that includes Great Wolf.

Hedrick also announced that the Callaway Foundation has donated $1.5 million to the project, putting Hillside two-thirds of the way through the estimated $4 million it needs to pay for construction costs.

“I have learned in the last six months that it takes a lot of money to build a school,” Hedrick joked Thursday night. “The land, the classrooms, administrative buildings, landscaping, parking lot, playgrounds — all of those things you have to consider ��� our numbers come to over $4 million.”

The exact cost of the new school and campus is estimated to be $4,028,450. Through grants and donations, the school has raised $2,736,500, counting the Callaway Foundation’s property and Southpoint’s land donation.

That leaves Hillside with $1,291,950 left to raise.

Hedrick said the goal is to break ground on the Montessori campus in the next few months, though no exact timeline was given for when the school might open.

The school offers programs to students ages 3 to 6 and students from first to eighth grade. Hillside started in 2012 with 12 students and classes were held in a cottage at LaGrange College.

The school has since seen growth with nearly 60 students currently enrolled. Classes are currently held at Unity Elementary School through a lease with the Troup County School System.

“Our goal from the beginning has been this — to create a space that conveys a message, so that the second someone steps on our campus, it’ll be clear it’s a special place,” Hedrick said.

Since opening, the school’s leaders have hoped to one day create an authentic Montessori campus, which would be built with the unique teaching style in mind.

Hedrick said ideal attributes for a Montessori campus include the following:  large windows to provide natural lighting, classrooms that can operate as simultaneous indoor and outdoor work spaces, kitchens that support authentic food preparation and a farm to table lifestyle and play areas that can complement the school’s indoor work environment.

Montessori is based on self-directed activity, hands-on learning and collaborative play. Teachers do not give grades and generally focus on allowing students to learn at their own pace.

“We are going to continue working hard on our end so that more kids in our community and neighboring communities have the option of an authentic Montessori environment,” Hedrick said.

The event also included a video presentation that showcased comments from students, teachers and community members. A silent auction and wine also were a part of the evening’s events.