Principal Beata Skorusa stands with husband and business partner Mark Javier in front of active construction at their new school site, set to open in fall 2018.

Montessori School Moving to New Location, Expanding Curriculum

Published June 7, 2018

The Montessori Foundations of Chicago, for years located in a storefront space at Archer Avenue and Leavitt Street, is preparing for big changes in facilities, curriculum and business as it preps for a move this fall to a new home a block away. The abandoned Titan Ornamental Ironworks building at 2239 W. 35th St. will house the new school, which will include an expanded early childhood program, the start of a full-blown elementary school program and a dramatically larger facility with more indoor and new outdoor space. 

School founder and Principal Beata Skorusa said she uncovered the opportunity to buy the abandoned property after noticing and researching it, and was able to seal the deal due to an appreciation for the Montessori learning method. When she contacted the long-estranged owner, "he was excited about the idea because his own children went to Montessori schools," she said. "Montessori brought us together."

Montessori Foundations of Chicago new school interior under constructionConstruction on the new school property requires a complete gut and overhaul of the old Titan Ornamental Ironworks building.The reason for moving is twofold, Skorusa said: first to meet the growing demand for admission, and second to enhance program quality for its benefits to child development. "The new facility will go beyond the minimum state and city requirements for schools," she said, and it will include large classrooms with en suite bathrooms and kitchenettes, conference and resource rooms, and a natural outdoor playground covering two city lots.

In addition to continuing its early childhood program, elementary school grades and classes will be phased in over time, starting with the first elementary school class this fall. Skorusa said that she is expanding her current staff of 15 employees by adding two teaching positions and two teacher assistant positions, with additional staff added as the elementary program continues to grow. "We like to hire from the neighborhood," she said, noting that the school will often support staff with both their education degree and Montessori certification.

Skorusa was able to acquire the property after she discovered it had been foreclosed in 2007, however, the bank never took possession. When Skorusa tracked down the original owner, he had no idea that the family still owned it, she said. After she pitched the Montessori school idea and offered to pay seven years' worth of back taxes, the owner agreed to sell.

Extensive dilapidation from long abandonment extends throughout the building as shown in this photo taken shortly after purchase.Extensive dilapidation from long abandonment extends throughout the building as shown in this photo taken shortly after purchase.Skorusa noted her and her family's longtime connections to the McKinley Park neighborhood and nearby areas: In the early 1900s, her great-aunt ran a bar in McKinley Park that bootlegged liquor out of the back room, she said. Her family immigrated from Poland and initially worked in the Stockyards; when Skorusa immigrated from Poland as a child, she lived in Back of the Yards. "Moving back to McKinley Park is a bit like coming home," she said.

The reasons her school has been successful and continues to grow tie both into the efficacy of the Montessori learning method and tuition levels set by the school, she said. "Affordability is a huge draw, but most families stay because of the quality of the education. Even if parents have no idea what Montessori is before enrolling, they quickly fall in love when they see the progress in their kids."

Skorusa noted that Illinois' recently enacted Invest in Kids Scholarship Tax Credit Program, which provides tuition assistance to K-12 students whose families meet income requirements, would make the school accessible to families with elementary-age students. "We take pride in being a socio-economically diverse school," she said. "It has always been the mission of the school to provide a high-quality Montessori education at an affordable price."

The school "will give parents an alternative to the traditional model, but also relieve some of the pressure associated with public school admission," Skorusa said. "Many of our current parents feel that their kids must either test well to get into a good school or move out of the city before the kids reach elementary. We want to be an affordable alternative. We want them to stay in our neighborhood and stay in our city."

An architectural rendering displays a side view of the planned school building design.
An architectural rendering displays a side view of the planned school building design.

 A top view of the school design displays proportion and layout in an architectural rendering.
A top view of the school design displays proportion and layout in an architectural rendering.


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