Parker Woods Montessori flourishes in Northside

Posted at 10:16 PM, Sep 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-16 22:16:09-04

CINCINNATI -- The recent upheaval in Cincinnati Public Schools’ magnet enrollment process demonstrated that Cincinnati parents’ desire to send their children to magnet schools is feverishly growing. One local magnet, Parker Woods Montessori in Northside, is emblematic of the continuing growth and development of the public magnet system.

Parker Woods Montessori started life as Winton Montessori, a relatively obscure local magnet located in Winton Terrace. Whitney Simmons, now the principal of Parker Woods, began her work as a vice principal at Winton Terrace in 2001. Simmons said she noticed some room for improvement, but was still impressed by what she saw at the time.

“II remember describing the place to other principals at the time as a jewel in the rough,” said Simmons. “I thought more people needed to know about it. The love and concern and care for children was like nothing I had seen in my 13 years of teaching.”

After a tenure at Winton Montessori, Simmons worked at a few other locals schools before coming on as principal of Winton Terrace nine years ago. At that time, Winton Montessori was struggling to keep up with the state's academic standards. Over the course of Simmons’ time as principal, the school moved from being under academic watch for low scores on the old state report card system, to a state of continuous improvement and meeting Ohio's expectations. Still, Winton Montessori’s enrollment paled in comparison to other local magnet schools.

Meanwhile, demographics across town in Northside were showing signs of change. As Jennifer Heffron, Northside resident and the mother of twin daughters attending Parker Woods, describes it, there was an increasing appetite for good local education.

“There’s a shifting demographic within Northside,” said Heffron. “I’ve lived there since 1999. There were no kids or families, really, in Northside. Now there’s tons of families and kids. They have even enough girls for two teams in the under 8 soccer league my daughters play in.”

While Northside was becoming increasingly popular with young families, Winton Montessori was making plans to move to a new facility at the site of the former Schwab School in Northside. The old Schwab building was demolished and a new specialized facility for Montessori education was built for Parker Woods.

The move piqued the interest of Northside parents looking for a great local school. Simmons describes this as the beginning of her school’s rapid growth.

“As we got ready to move to our site here in Northside, we began to get new families excited about joining the school, coming onboard and becoming active in the school,” said Simmons. “Once we got here, our enrollment took off. We have the highest enrollment we’ve ever had this current school year.”

Parker Woods' enrollment for this school year is particularly impressive when measured against other popular magnets. The Fairview-Clifton German Language School, one of the biggest campout destinations, was able to accommodate all of their wait-listed students, while Parker Woods has seen such rapid growth that they still have a waiting list for the current year.

Simmons believes that the community and the emphasis on an all-encompassing education are major reasons for Parker Woods’ uptick in enrollment.

“I think it’s the teaching philosophy, I think it’s the location and more people know about us because of that move,” shared Simmons. “They can then spread the word that we have a very caring community. Many of the same staff members are here (from back in 2001). We have that same love, concern and support for our children and families. I would say that’s the main drawing point of this school.”

Heffron agrees that Parker Woods is unique in the engagement they show in her daughters’ education. She also thinks that parents like her are impressed by the new facility.

“The teachers are fantastic,” said Heffron. “Every teacher I’ve met has been really great, personally invested. My girls love them. People are attracted by it being a magnet school and so convenient. The facility is really beautiful, too, so I think people who take a tour are really impressed. I think they were in the right place at the right time.”

With enrollment at an all-time-high, growth at Parker Woods Montessori shows no signs of slowing down. Simmons is particularly optimistic about the future prospects of her school. She emphasizes that Parker Woods is prepared to offer students an engagement that not only emphasizes academics, but also prepares them for life outside of school.

“We are continuing to enroll,” said Simmons. “We’re continuing to increase the number of children in our school. The good (word of mouth) is helping us grow. We are a school that believes that learning for life is important. That’s our motto, and if that’s what you believe, then this is a good place for your children.”

How to get involved:

  • Tours every second Tuesday of the month from 9 to 10:30 a.m.
  • If that time doesn’t work, families can all the main office, 513-363-6200, to set up a personal tour.
  • Open house 6 to 7:30 p.m. Sept. 21.
  • PTO meetings third Wednesday of every month at 5:45 p.m.
  • Walk-a-Thon and Fall Festival Oct. 9.