by ALEXANDRA RETTER
Children and adults of all ages celebrated Main Square Montessori arriving in downtown Winona at a grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday afternoon.
The learning center’s recently opened building, which is located at 123 West Fourth Street, features two classrooms, an outdoor play space, a meeting room, a space for adults and an office for the director. The building also includes a door that is just the right size for children to open and pass through all by themselves, as well as other child-sized aspects, such as smaller sinks for children.
At the grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony, attendees witnessed the unveiling of a statue of a child rollerskating. The statue pays tribute to Bob Kierlin of Fastenal, Main Square Development and the Hiawatha Education Foundation. It is located outside on the right side of the building.
Some of the project’s stakeholders then cut a ribbon in front of the entrance to the learning center, and a child walked through the child-sized door.
“We have been waiting a long time to watch the first student walk through that child-sized door,” Jacque Paulsen, the director of Main Square Montessori, said in an email.
Next, attendees were invited to enter the building and explore each of its spaces. Once inside, attendees went from room to room, viewing the spaces and talking with one another. Some munched on cake pops that were offered near one of the classrooms.
“We had 150 cake pops from Mon Petit Cupcake, and every last one was eaten,” Paulsen said. “We had over 100 people tour the building — parents, children, business partners, Chamber members and even just people walking by. It was a fun, energetic event.”
Star Obiofu, a Winona resident, has a daughter who has attended the learning center since its classes began at another location in September this year.
“I love the Montessori,” Obiofu said at the grand opening. “It’s a daycare and a school in one. It fits our needs in more than one way.”
Obiofu said her daughter enjoys attending the learning center. She added that her daughter will continue to go there for as long as possible.
Obiofu shared that she appreciates the aesthetic and functionality of the new Main Square Montessori building.
“I love the new building. It fits the kids’ needs,” Obiofu said. “I love the design. It’s great.”
Sonja Romine, a Rollingstone resident, works at Riverway Learning Community, a local charter public school that employs the Montessori method in its primary grades. At the grand opening, Romine said she attended the event to show her support for and excitement about a Montessori learning center opening in downtown Winona.
Romine stated that she feels the Montessori method benefits students.
“It [Main Square Montessori] is amazing for the city of Winona and the whole area,” Romine said.
Romine shared that she finds the Main Square Montessori building to be beautiful.
“I love all the light that comes in, and it’s in the middle of the community,” Romine said.
Main Square Community Property Manager Tom Hoseck said in an email that he was glad to tour the learning center, as he had not previously been introduced to Montessori schools firsthand.
“Meeting the teachers and talking to the other attendees was a good opportunity for me to learn more about how the school will function,” Hoseck shared. “I also think the building looked very modern and will be a great new place for kids to learn.”
Hoseck stated that he thinks the child-sized aspects of the learning center are intriguing as well. He added that he appreciates the statue that honors Kierlin.
Main Square Montessori is a non-profit learning center for children, age toddler through kindergarten, and a partnership between the Hiawatha Education Foundation and Cotter Schools, Inc. Sister Judith Schaefer is the president of Main Square Montessori and Cotter Schools.
Paulsen explained that the inspiration for the school originated with Kierlin and his family.
“In the spring of 2018, Mr. Kierlin approached Sr. Judith Schaefer, president of Cotter Schools, and asked if they would partner with HEF [Hiawatha Education Foundation] to build and open a Montessori School as a part of the Main Square development project. And the dream took off,” Paulsen said.
Paulsen said the Main Square Montessori team feels the grand opening went very well.
“There was a wonderful representation of the entire Winona community,” Paulsen said. “We were overwhelmed with the outpouring of support and good wishes. People seemed very impressed with the beauty and design of the building, especially its location in the heart of downtown Winona.”
Next door to the Montessori school, Kierlin’s Main Square Development company is nearing completion of a mixed-used building dubbed the Main Square Community that will host a Sicilian bistro, shops, offices, a Winona Health clinic and upscale and market-rate apartments.
Main Square Montessori may be visited online at www.mainsquaremontessori.org.