When Grosse Pointe Woods resident Ruthe Petrovich welcomed students to Maple Park Montessori in St. Clair Shores this fall, it was the 30th first day of school for the business, which she and her husband, Bill, opened in 1982.
"It's hard to believe 30 years have gone by," Petrovich said.
The school is open to students from ages 3 to 6, including a kindergarten year, called "extended day." The school also offers before- and after-school daycare.
"I didn't know anything about Montessori philosophy but when I walked into the school and met Ruthe, I knew this was where my kids would go," said Grosse Pointe Woods resident Heidi Pangborn.
"The setting was calm and respectful," Pangborn said. "I wasn't overwhelmed with colors and sound."
She admits, at first, she was a little uncomfortable with the five days a week at such a young age but was comforted to learn consistency and predictability reinforced life skills children needed to be independent.
"And, all of the girls absolutely loved it. They still love Maple Park and Ruthe and Bill."
Three of Grosse Pointe Park resident Lisa Rennel's children are Maple Park alum.
"My oldest, who didn't attend, saw what his brother and sisters gained from the experience, and he still tells me he feels he missed out," she laughed. Two of her sons attend the University of Michigan.
"When I was in high school at (Our Lady) Star (of the Sea), I would come here after to pick up my little sister," said Kristine Hass. Her sister, Mary Beth, was a member of the first graduating class at the school.
"The school made such an impression on me then, that I thought, 'if I ever had children, they are coming here.'"
Hass and her husband, Richard, now have their fifth child registered at the school. "We enrolled our first child as soon as she was age-eligible and were surprised to learn the cost was comparable to the daycare we needed since we both worked." That was 18 years ago.
Attachment to the school and friendships last beyond graduation, according to Petrovich.
"So many families have formed long-term bonds through their connection with Maple Park," said Petrovich. "They come here because they share a desire to see their children develop a love of learning and participate in purposeful work." That principal is at the heart of the Montessori philosophy.
The facility is located at 20301 E.10 Mile, St. Clair Shores. The phone number is (586) 776-4066 and its website is mapleparkmontessori.com