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Montessori High School Eyes Downtown Evanston

Beacon Academy, a Montessori high school, is hoping to open for the 2014-15 school year at 622 Davis St. and seeking financial support from the city.

A group hoping to start the first Montessori high school in the Chicago area is looking at downtown Evanston for a fall 2014 opening. 

Jeff Bell, founding head of school for Beacon Academy, recently submitted a request to the city for a special use permit to open the school at 622 Davis St., a four-story building with three floors of office space above retail. In order to fund the opening, Beacon Academy board is also seeking financial support from the city.

Officials from Beacon Academy submitted a letter to the city earlier in August, formally requesting a construction loan guarantee of $650,000 or support of $650,000 to back a letter of credit. Members of the economic development committee considered that request on Aug. 21, but it has yet to go before the full city council. 

So far, Beacon Academy has raised $800,000 of the $2.5 million that school officials estimate would be necessary to cover start-up costs, according to city documents. The school is hoping to obtain a loan from MB Financial for the remaining amount of money, but needs the backing of a creditworthy guarantor—which is why they have approached the city of Evanston. 

Assuming Beacon Academy is able to obtain funding and secure a location at 622 Davis St., school officials plan to open to 9th and 10th graders in September 2014. Curriculum will combine Montessori principles and the International Baccalaureate program, according to a letter from Beacon Academy officials. Officials hope to partner with Piven Theatre, the Evanston Public Library, the YWCA, the Evanston Art Center and Northwestern University, among other local institutions.

Ultimately, the goal is for Beacon Academy to enroll between 250 and 300 students and draw from several feeder in the area, including Chiaravalle Montessori School in Evanston, Rogers Park Montessori School, Near North Montessori School in Chicago, Forest Bluff Montessori School in Lake Bluff and Montessori School of Lake Forest.

According to the letter, tuition at Montessori schools is typically slightly lower than the average private school, and there will also be scholarships and financial aid available. 

Beacon Academy was one of four entities that submitted statements of interest in the Harley Clarke Mansion after the city of Evanston distributed a request for interest in June 2012. Only Jennifer Pritzker’s Tawani Enterprises went forward with an actual bid on the property, however.


Blu September 19, 2013 at 03:05 PM
gotcha :)
Procrustes' Foil September 20, 2013 at 06:55 AM
Guaranteeing a loan that could default IS risky. Second, since this is a school, it would be exempt from taxes. How would that help Evanston? Again, Evanston should consider an IB program for a few of its public schools which would give Evanstonians school choice. IB programs are inexpensive to run and require a three-year commitment from the school and teachers who are trained in the International Baccalaureate curriculum. IB programs incorporate methods that are similar to Montessori methods and are more academically and intellectually rigorous.
Jimmy James September 20, 2013 at 10:56 AM
Every loan could default, and is inherently risky. But if it doesn't default, it would be paid back in full, with interest. That means more money for the city.
evanstonslim September 22, 2013 at 10:46 AM
I've heard no consideration of the traffic congestion this school would add. Having lived near Sacred Heart in Edgewater, it's really annoying to have the parade of suv's twice a day jamming up the streets. A second though, this group seems to be only interested in prime desirable real estate. Why not go for a more affordable - and slightly less trafficked area. No need to put a school in either area when affordable options are around.
Procrustes' Foil September 23, 2013 at 07:20 AM
Evanstonian, good point. Further, these affluent kids will probably have their own cars, which would make matters worse.


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