The new century was about to begin and yet there didn’t seem to be a future in sight.
That must have been how the parents of the Montessori School of Fremont (MSF), located in Southern Alameda County, saw things in 1998. They were so pleased with the academic and social development and success of their children at MSF that they wanted Montessori schooling to continue beyond the fourth grade.
Thankfully, a synergy occurred that year. As the owners of MSF began to concretely lay out plans to expand their school to include middle and high schools, they were approached by some parents of their students. Since both parties’ desire to provide children with a more complete education using the Montessori method dovetailed, a feasibility committee was formed.
After documents of incorporation were filed and qualified Montessori-trained teachers were hired, Alsion Montessori achieved its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status in August 2000. A year and nine months later, classes for seventh graders began in the middle school. In 2001, the middle school had an enrollment of 12 students and a staff of two teachers. One grade level, however, was added in each of the succeeding two years, and the roster of four full-time teachers was finalized in 2008.
The Alsion Early College High School, which is based on a traditional model of education rather than the Montessori Method, took longer to realize. Though always part of the Alsion conception from the very onset, the high school was also established to encourage Alsion students to remain for the full, three-year Montessori cycle rather than go “mainstream” at the end of eighth grade. It began full operation in 2005 after an institutional partnership with nearby Ohlone College was established and a provost was hired. In its first year of existence, the high school had seven students.
From its inception, Alsion and its students shared facilities with the preschool and elementary programs of Montessori School of Fremont. As the years progressed, it became readily apparent that this arrangement had to be modified. The campus had inadequate outside space for adolescent-scale recreation and athletics; the single, open classroom shared by the seventh, eighth and ninth graders was overcrowded; the high-school students, based in a 300-sq. ft. office 6/10s mile away from the campus, had no place for their own socialization, study and personal property; and any further enrollment growth could not be easily accommodated on campus.
Alsion was able successfully finance and build its own new campus during the first half of 2008. The school has been operating from this new facility since September 3 of the same year. On the new site, there is sufficient space outside and inside the two buildings housing the middle school and early college program to accommodate a 25% larger junior high enrollment and 100% larger high-school matriculation.
Since 2000, the parents of Montessori School of Fremont — because of Alsion — are assured that their children can reap the rewards of a Montessori education much further beyond the sixth grade. One must not think, however, that Alsion is only for those who naturally matriculate from Montessori elementary schools. Parents and students from non-Montessori institutions are attracted to the small class sizes and teacher-to-student ratio, the close-knit school community, the emphasis on independence and creativity, and the academic rigor found at Alsion. Even without media advertising and very little press attention, the interest and demand of parents and children attending local public and private schools have grown over the years.