In 1970, a group of parents were looking for a quality Montessori preschool for their children. They wanted more than "daycare" for their children. They had heard about Montessori from other parents in the community and thought that might be the answer they were looking for. The group discovered a Montessori preschool in San Bernardino and started to carpool.
After four years of driving out of town, they were ready for a change. Led by Leon and Margie Armantrout, the parents conceived the idea of bringing Montessori to Redlands. They found a Montessori teacher named Nora Alameny, an assistant, Nancy Wilson and a secretary, Perri Monsour. To start the school, the group needed money for space and materials. Margie and Leon sold a beloved classic car, a wedding gift, to raise the $10,000 needed to rent space, buy materials, and pay starting salaries. They rented the classroom in the United Methodist Church on Cajon St. in downtown Redlands and in 1976 Montessori in Redlands (MIR) was born. MIR started with 12 students in September, but by June the class was overflowing.
Two short years later the school had outgrown the church basement, MIR was offered a dedicated space on the campus of local technology company Esri, and an enduring relationship between MIR and the employees of Esri was born.
The new school environment brought an increased sense of order, wonder, and purpose. Employees at Esri regularly enjoyed the sight of children taking walks or working on the campus.
With more space came more students, more families, more staff, and more community involvement. The school expanded into additional classrooms. In 1979, as the children grew, so did the school. The first Lower Elementary class, serving ages 6 to 9, was established. And when these children outgrew Lower Elementary, MIR added Upper Elementary. In 1982, the first class for ages 9 to 12 was added.
The first student to graduate MIR at 6th grade, Eric Stickney, eventually went on to medical school. Second to graduate was Margie and Leon's son, Jeff, who taught at The Grove School before joining the family business at the Mitten Building. Graduate John Fisher became an Eagle Scout, got his pilot's license at 17, attended Northern Arizona University, and now works in the aviation industry.
The children at MIR were thriving and in 10 years the school had grown to more than 200 students. Esri was growing as well and needed the school building for offices. The MIR administration developed an expansion plan, dubbed Project ’90, and over the course of two years raised the more than $2 million needed to move to its current location on Orange Avenue in September of 1991.
The new facility housed Toddler, Primary, and Lower and Upper Elementary and classes. As the cement was poured and the buildings were being built, the staff worked hard to prepare for taking their new environment to the next level. New buildings, new materials, and even more staff awaited more students and more families.
Project 2000, initiated in the late '90s was the Governing Board's vision for a full spectrum school, serving children from 12 months to 12th grade. This began with the expansion of the campus to the new buildings north of the Morey Arroyo. The first stage was realized in 1994 with the inception of the middle school class. MIR's first three 9th grade graduates completed their course of study in 1997. In that same year, MIR’s Head of School and a group of dedicated parents conceived of opening a public charter Montessori school for middle and high school students to allow more students access to Montessori education at the adolescent level.
The group submitted the proposal for The Grove School to the Redlands Unified School District, and The Grove School opened its doors in September 1999. MIR closed down its middle school program in favor of the new charter school’s program, and the close relationship of the two school remains today. The Grove School shares the same campus as MIR, allowing the two schools to provide Montessori education from 18 months to 18 years on a single campus.
The MIR campus is designed on a village model, with separate buildings linked by pathways across 12 acres. The one challenge was that the campus was separated by the Morrey Arroyo, and children moving between campuses had to walk the sidewalk on busy Nevada St. In 2004, MIR successfully raised the funds to install a beautiful bridge across the arroyo, linking the two campuses more safely and enhancing the village feel of the campus.
The importance of the bridge is perhaps best expressed by The Grove School’s Bridging Ceremony, where 9th grade students are accompanied across the bridge by welcoming high school students to symbolize their transition to the high school campus.
In 2004, MIR also started its Student Services program, a unique program to provide services on-site to students who need extra support for success in the classroom. The program provides occupational therapy, speech therapy, tutoring, social skills support, and other services at nominal costs to parents. On-site services allow students to get support with minimal disruption to their school day. (MIR does not separate students who need services into different classes; all such students are thoroughly integrated into their classes.)
In 2007, with the continued support of alumni, families, and friends of MIR, the school achieved an important milestone in ensuring the continued financial security of the school: the school purchased the property on which it stood, which had been leased to the school by the Dangermond family since 1991. This allowed the school to plan for future growth and develop the campus as needed to serve the needs of students. This came to fruition in 2017, when MIR opened the new Student Services Center to provided expanded space to serve the students in its student services program more effectively.
Eighteen months to 18 years, all stages of development of the person through childhood are served on the campus at MIR and The Grove School. The intellect, emotion and spirit of the child are given an environment in which to grow and realize its potential. MIR celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2016. The last 41 years have seen many changes and inspiring growth for MIR and the community of Redlands, and the future continues to look bright. More change and growth is on the horizon, with the continuing support of the families of MIR and Redlands.