Nestled beside a creek on wooded acreage in the Casa Linda area of East Dallas, White Rock Montessori serves approximately 170 students, ages three through 8th grade. The school was among the early Montessori elementary and middle schools in the nation and is recognized today as one of the city’s finest Montessori programs.
White Rock Montessori opened in 1975 with twelve students (grades 1-3) in space rented from the Episcopal Church of the Good Samaritan near White Rock Lake in East Dallas. Five years later, with almost 40 students now encompassing grades 1-6, the school moved to more spacious quarters at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Lakewood. Within a few years, enrollment more than doubled, two preschool classrooms were added, as well as a before and after-school program.
By 1990, the school had earned a solid reputation in the neighborhood and in the larger Montessori community. Two factors surfaced that would dovetail to provide a challenge of unprecedented magnitude and ultimately change its destiny. First was the deep desire of White Rock parents, expressed over the years, to continue their children’s Montessori education through 8th grade. Second was to the need to secure the future of the school by owning its own building and land.
In January, 1994, the school board met with representatives of the Parents’ Steering Committee, ushering in an exciting period in the school’s history. The board approved a plan to look for another site and to begin developing a middle school model. Buoyed by the rare opportunity to create an environment specifically designed to support our Montessori philosophy for years to come, a parent task force was formed and the land on Oates Drive was located. Since the property was zoned strictly for residential development, the parents formed a corporation, purchased the land, and held the property for just over a year until the school was able to get the necessary permits.
The school subsequently purchased the land from the parents and a capital campaign was begun to raise the necessary funds to begin building.
Due to a surge in enrollment and a reluctance to wait on the new building before establishing the middle school, WRM opened a satellite campus in space leased from the First United Lutheran Church on Mockingbird Lane in 1995. In addition to the first class of 7th and 8th graders, a third preschool class and a second lower elementary class were opened at this location.
Meanwhile, parents, staff, and administration began designing a facility that would support the school’s mission. From the beginning, it was envisioned that the building would be elegant in its simplicity; a structure that would be sound, unpretentious, contemplative, thought-provoking, inviting, and inspiring. Abundant natural light and ease of function were essential. White Rock Montessori broke ground on December 13, 1997 and moved into our new building on September 8, 1998.
The land’s pastoral setting offered the opportunity to move learning out of doors and allowed children and staff to interact with nature through gardening and tending to small animals. In 1999 the outdoor education program of the school was enhanced by the addition of a Discovery Garden, stretching the length of the back of the campus. In 1993 the school acquired 20 acres of wilderness land where students of all ages could explore an unspoiled natural habitat. Elementary students took day trips to the land, while middle school students camp periodically throughout the year, incorporating on-campus learning into these experiences.
Over the years, White Rock Montessori has enjoyed consistent and competent leadership. Director Emeritus, Sue Henry, is one of the founders of the school. The school consists of twenty-eight highly professional faculty and staff members, including specialists in the visual and performing arts, music, Spanish, environmental studies, and physical education. The teaching staff of this arts-integrated school all hold credentials from accredited Montessori training programs in addition to their university degrees. The school is a non-profit institution and is affiliated with the American Montessori Society, the North American Montessori Teachers’ Association, and the International Montessori Council.
Chosen by “D” Magazine as one of the top 25 private schools in Dallas, White Rock Montessori has reason to be proud of its history. The school looks forward to many more years of service to the families of Dallas.