Shining Stars finds new home in time for school year

An earlier version of this story said that the Shining Stars Montessori Academy would be the first charter school to open in Ward 3. Washington Latin Public Charter School opened in Ward 3 and later moved. This version has been corrected.

Shining Stars Montessori Academy leaders announced Tuesday that they have secured a new building in time for the school year to begin, bringing to a close a last-minute scramble for space after their initial lease fell through late in June.

The new site is an office building at 2461 Wisconsin Ave. NW in the Glover Park neighborhood in Northwest Washington. It will be the only charter school in Ward 3, which encompasses mainly affluent neighborhoods where many families attend neighborhood schools.

Executive Director Regina Rodriguez notified families of the new space by e-mail Tuesday with the subject heading: “Great News!!!! We have a home!”

The 12,000-square-foot building is “light-filled,” adjacent to a park with a playground and needs little work to prepare for students to arrive  Aug. 25, she said in the letter.

Officials had planned to move into a building in Petworth but found out in late June that their deal had fallen through because the owner accepted a more lucrative offer from another charter school before the lease was finalized. The sudden uncertainty left families reeling and highlighted the demand for space among the city’s proliferating charter schools.

At a meeting with parents in July, school officials said they were considering a building near the Maryland border in Northeast Washington.

Kamina Newsome, director of operations, said the building they ultimately leased, which is owned by the International Union of Operating Engineers, was one of a number of sites that they had inquired about this summer. “The building owner saw what a challenge we were facing,” Newsome said. “It happened really fast.”

She said it was the best site for the “health and sustainability of the school,” with an environment that is “conducive to Montessori learning” and closer proximity to the current school location near the U Street Corridor.

She said she hopes they do not need to look for another building again soon.

“We want to hunker down and focus on academics from this point on,” she said.

Michael Alison Chandler writes about schools and families in the Washington region.
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