MOUNT DESERT — The Community School of Mount Desert Island, a private elementary school that opened two years ago in temporary space in Seal Harbor, will move to a permanent location on Sound Drive in September.
The school has bought the house on Babson Creek at the bridge in Somesville. The home was built around 1850 by Eben and Phebe Babson. The house is on a 3.6-acre lot with a barn and a workshop. The purchase price was $520,000. The assessed value of the property for tax purposes is $608,300.
All of the money for the purchase was raised from private donors, according to Lynn Boulger, chair of the school’s board of trustees.
“There’s still a ways to go for renovating it and bringing it up to code, but we bought the house with cash,” she said.
The Mount Desert Planning Board last week approved a conditional use permit to use the property for a school. The approval also covers the planned widening of the entrance drive and construction of a circular drive with a few parking spaces in the open field on the northeast side of the house.
Jasmine Smith, the Community School’s director and lead teacher, said 18 students have registered for the session that begins in September. She said the K-5 school plans to expand to include grades 6-8 next year.
According to its mission statement, the Waldorf-inspired Community School “nurtures, challenges and empowers children by using the local community and the natural world as our classroom to creatively explore all subject areas through a holistic, experiential curriculum.”
Smith said the pastoral setting of school’s new home “dovetails with our vision and mission really well.”
Since the Community School opened in September 2014 with 13 students, it has been located in the Abby Chapel building in Seal Harbor.
Boulger acknowledged that private schools such as the Community School have their detractors, who see them as competing with the public schools. But she noted that parents who send their children to the Community School also support the public schools with their tax dollars and that their children go on to MDI High School.
“It’s really great to have a choice, an alternative, especially for those students for whom the public school is not working,” Boulger said. “One size does not fit all.
“We really believe in a very child-centric way of teaching. There is a place for an alternative, and we think the island can support it.”