MPSA Freqeuently asked questions

Q: How many Montessori students are there in Arlington County Public Schools?

A: As of June 2023, MPSA counted 498 preK-5 students. There were also 139 preK-K Montessori students in satellite classrooms at then-six neighborhood elementary schools (Oakridge, Fleet, Jamestown, Discovery, Carlin Springs and Barrett, (the latter of which saw its Montessori class moved to MPSA starting SY23-24 to free Barret space). There were 76 students in the Gunston Montessori middle school trailers. That totals 713 APS Montessori students in SY22-23.

Q: What is the capacity of the current Montessori Public School of Arlington (MPSA) building?

A: MPSA in the former Patrick Henry Elementrary building has permanent capacity for 463 students by design, and no trailers are available due to Career Center campus construction.

Q: From what neighborhoods do MPSA students reside?

A: Of the 393 K-5 students enrolled in MPSA in SY22-23, 70% (274) transferred from neighborhood schools located south of Route 50. SY22-23 transfer data showed:

Q: What is the demographic breakdown of MPSA students?

A: Of the 393 K-5 students enrolled at MPSA in SY22-23, 60% (235) identified as Asian, black, Hispanic, or other, while 135 were white.

Q: How many MPSA students were eligible for free and reduced lunch (FRL).

A: In SY22-23, 27.6% of all MPSA students (138) were eligible for the free and reduced lunch (FRL).

Q: How many applications for available Montessori slots does MPSA receive? 

A: In the latest lottery for SY23-24 MPSA slots, there were 756 applicants for just 57 primary spots and 26 elementary slots. Applications-per-slot have increased from 7 in SY19-20 to 9.1 in SY23-24.

Q: What is the cost per pupil at MPSA?

A: APS data prepared for SY20-21, provided via FOIA, showed the cost per pupil at MPSA was $12,911. MPSA at the time ranked below Jamestown, Glebe and other neighborhood elementary schools, and under the mean of $13,556 for all APS elementary schools. Notably, MPSA’s cost calculation did not include the more than $1.14 million in tuition revenue provided by Montessori families. APS Montessori tuition revenue goes into the APS general fund, not the Montessori program.

Q: What is the tuition for the Montessori program for pre-Kindergarten students?

A: Tuition for 3- and 4-year-old students in Montessori is charged on a progressive sliding scale, and pre-K admission favors economically disadvantaged households. Two-thirds of slots in each primary Montessori class are reserved for children whose parents’ income is at or less than 80% of the local median family level, mirroring the Virginia Preschool Initiative (SY23-24 threshold is $120,560). Families with household income above $200,000 pay almost $19,000 a year in preK APS Montessori tuition.

Q: Why should MPSA be moved to the old Arlington Career Center after renovations take place there? What about Nottingham?

A: MPSA is the only new elementary school to be created in a generation without constructing a new building. Discovery, Cardinal and Fleet elementary schools all opened with new buildings since 2015. (The Children’s School with Integration Station and HB Woodlawn also moved into new construction). But MPSA opened in SY19-20 in the Patrick Henry building after touch-ups (e.g., HVAC not replaced). Henry was built in 1974 and last renovated in 1993. MPSA is slated to move into the old Arlington Career Center (ACC) building starting SY28-29 after the latter is renovated for elementary use.

The APS plan to move MPSA into the old ACC building is the result of a multiyear, public review that found the best-use scenario regarding siting, capacity and program cost efficiencies. Related planning began in 2015 under the South Arlington Working Group, leading to MPSA moving into the Patrick Henry building in SY19-20. The plan was cemented in November 2022 with a school bond vote to fund the ACC makeover that received 77% approval.

The Career Center campus is a centrally located site that also is more accessible to a large proportion of Montessori families from across the county, especially economically disadvantaged students based in South Arlington (see transfer data above).

The current plan has obtained buy-in from Career Center neighborhoods, the Arlington Tech HS, Arlington Community HS and APS Montessori communities, plus Columbia Pike library proponents, the School Board, County use permitting, and voters who approved the related school bond.

In its Sept. 15, 2023, report to the School Board on guidance for the next CIP, the APS Facilities Advisory Committee (FAC) recommended “highlighting the extensive ACC BLPC process (and its prior instantiations) that went into re-imagining the entire ACC campus, including the logic behind building an entirely new ACC, repurposing the old ACC for MPSA in lieu of keeping the Patrick Henry Building on-site, and putting a $15M wedge into the previous CIP budget request to ensure that funds existed to get started on renovations for the old ACC.”

The County and School Board in 2022 pledged to keep the Career Center site limited to 2,570 students across just two schools, Arlington Tech and Montessori, and they have promised to tear down the aging Patrick Henry building to provide green space on site.

The old ACC building has capacity for around 750 students. It can accommodate the current MPSA, as well as potentially adding current satellite classes, the middle school Montessori program, and/or admitting more students from the perennial waitlist of families seeking Montessori slots. In turn, the School District can benefit by repurposing Montessori classrooms at crowded neighborhood schools (as done at Barrett ES for SY23-24), eliminating trailers and cutting over-population at Gunston Middle School, and/or relieving overcapacity at targeted elementary schools via increased MPSA admissions.

As the FAC noted, the $15 million wedge identified in the last CIP was to reserve funds to get started for a renovation of ACC for MPSA. The final budget for ACC renovations has not been set and details of what is needed in a renovation of the old ACC – regardless future use – have yet to be determined as of September 2023.

Regarding proposed swing space, the APS FAC “concurs that Nottingham is an ideal choice for swing space, consistent with the use of swing space for renovations in past decades.”

If MPSA moves off the Career Center campus, APS foregoes the cost efficiencies of consolidating Montessori in one location and freeing space elsewhere. What is more, an existing elementary school elsewhere likely would entail cutting the current student population to fit. Finally, if the next site was not a long-term home, it would mean paying more costs for acquiring and moving the program again later.