Santa Fe Montessori School closing after more than 40 years in Solana Beach

After more than four decades of service, Santa Fe Montessori School is closing its doors in Solana Beach.

Santa Fe Montessori School will close on June 5. LePort Schools, which purchased the property, will open on June 8.

“This school is one that runs like a well-oiled machine after all these years,” said Head of School Teresita Leimer. “Nancy Sager, the founder and the owner of the land, along with her husband, Paul, have really created something that’s lasted a long time and been known for its high quality.”

Nancy Sager
( / Courtesy photo)

With a dream to open her own Montessori school, Nancy Sager founded Santa Fe Montessori School in 1971. Sager had studied the Montessori method in New York and further researched the method after she relocated to San Diego.

The Montessori learning method establishes a collaborative environment without grades or tests and with multi-age classrooms, as well as self-directed learning and discovery for long blocks of time.

Santa Fe Montessori School opened in September 1971 with two classrooms for toddlers to 6-year-olds. Forty-eight children enrolled the first year.

The elementary program opened two years later, and additional classrooms were built in the years that followed. Growing demand led to the construction of the elementary school, which opened in 1992.

Finally, the toddler program opened in 2000.

Today, three buildings sit on the two-acre property. The school has 140 students, ages 18 months to 12 years, in programs for toddlers through sixth grade. There are 28 staff members, including eight lead teachers.

In October, LePort Schools approached the Sagers, who own the building and land, with an offer to purchase the property. The couple accepted, families were notified in February and the sale was final in March, Leimer said.

Students, parents, alumni and staff gathered May 16 to celebrate the school’s 44 years in Solana Beach.

“What I’d like to say today is that this school is like a bird,” said Sager in her farewell speech. “And the birds come in many, many different colors, different wings, different songs. And that is the way our children are, with different colors and different songs.

“This school will continue, but there comes a time in life when things change, and therefore, there is a change. Thank you for being a part of this today. And may these beautiful birds — who are really children, right? — go out and fly.”

Based in Irvine, LePort Schools offers Montessori and private schools in Orange, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco counties, and has recently expanded to New York.

LePort Schools will offer programs for infants through sixth grade at the Solana Beach site. Leimer estimates that as many as 50 percent of Santa Fe Montessori School’s students will transition to the new school. Several staff members are also staying.

Leimer, who sat on the school’s board of directors for seven years, has served as the head of school for four years. She plans to help open a school in Cancun, Mexico.

“Santa Fe Montessori School is an institution nearly half a century old and is now closing its doors, but those 44 years of making a difference in children’s lives not only leaves an imprint on the past, it also leaves an enduring legacy for the future,” Leimer said in her farewell speech.

“Every one of those hundreds of children spread unknowingly the legacy of SFMS by living a passion for learning, by embodying compassionate connections, and by enjoying life to the fullest every day here in San Diego, across the United States, and around the world.”

For more about Santa Fe Montessori School, visit www.santafemontessori.org.

For more about LePort Schools, visit leportschools.com.


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