Greenbrook resident plans to open a new preschool with individualized education serving Bradenton, Sarasota and Lakewood Ranch.
After tax season in 2021, Greenbrook’s Bethany Carr began to get what she called the “COVID itch.”
She wanted to try something new after 20 years of stressful tax seasons as a certified public accountant.
Seeing the impact a Montessori philosophy in education had on her four children, 14-year-old Austin, 8-year-old Evan, 7-year-old Ethan, and 5-year-old Eli, she decided to transition to owning and operating a preschool.
“We love the Montessori philosophy, which meets children where they are,” Carr said. “It’s very much child-led, driven by what their interests are. It allows children to move at their own pace, and the model works well for so many students.”
Carr is opening Ivybrook Academy, a Montessori and Reggio Emilia-inspired half-day preschool, for the 2022-2023 school year. The school will be a new location for the national franchise that has at least 50 schools across the country.
Ivybrook Academy is taking over a space behind the Whole Foods on University Parkway and Honor Avenue that currently is a daycare. The preschool’s lease will start in June when Carr, the owner and director of admissions, will have some renovations completed before opening the school for tours in July.
She said most preschools in the area forced parents to commit to full-day programs or to year-round programs.
“There’s definitely a demand for a part-time program that is education focused and prepares your child for elementary school,” she said.
Carr said she knows parents who are on waitlists of six to nine months to obtain a spot at a local preschool. She said Ivybrook Academy can help fill the demand.
“Ivybrook is going to fill a gap in the preschool offerings in our community,” Carr said. “There’s a real need for families who have a stay-at-home parent or have a caregiver but still want a preschool experience for their child. They don’t want to have to commit to a year-round preschool.”
The school will follow a similar calendar to the School District of Manatee County with a targeted first day of school of Aug. 10.
The school will start only with a morning session available, but Carr said the school will add an afternoon session depending on demand. Ivybrook Academy can serve 200 students.
Carr said Ivybrook Academy will offer individualized learning as teachers will adjust to the student's level. Children will be broken down into smaller groups based on their abilities.
“The Montessori method is very much customized to the child, and the teacher works alongside the child instead of standing up in front of the classroom teaching,” Carr said. “If a child is interested in dinosaurs, for example, the teacher will use that interest in dinosaurs to help them learn letters or sight words or help them with their math. It keeps the child engaged because it’s something they’re interested in and yet they’re learning the skills they need at the same time.”
The Reggio Emilia approach focuses on children being active participants in their growth and developmental process. Carr said the approach is hands-on and collaborative.
The classrooms won’t look like typical classrooms either, Carr said.
Classrooms can often have bright primary colors to try to provide a fun, welcoming environment, but Carr said that environment can sometimes be too stimulating for children. So at Ivybrook Academy, the classrooms will have muted color schemes with natural materials to bring the outside world inside.
“It’s a much calmer environment that allows the children to cut out the excess noise and the excess stimulation and settle in and learn,” Carr said.
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