Judy Webster runs Camino Montessori in Maricopa. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

An open letter to the Maricopa community

By Judy Webster

As many of you are aware, Camino Montessori closed its doors at the end of the school day on Oct. 5. This was a gut-wrenching decision, and I am absolutely brokenhearted about it. It was my dream to bring affordable Montessori education to a community that did not have it. I have poured my heart and soul into this dream for the past nine years, and even two weeks after we closed our doors I continue to grieve over the closing. It is not something I ever dreamed would happen.

I feel terrible for the staff that gave their all to make this a successful school. I feel terrible about not being able to continue the mission of bringing Montessori education to the Maricopa community. Above all else, I feel terrible anguish for letting down the children and families that called Camino their school.
I totally understand the anger that some people have expressed about the closing and especially about the very short notice that was given. If we could have found any way to move forward without closing or if we could have found any way to keep the doors open longer (end of October, end of semester, end of the year) we would have pursued it. The fact of the matter is, we ran out of money.

Many may say that Camino must have known that there were money problems. The answer to that is yes, we knew it was going to be very tight. We lost a lot of enrollment during the second semester last year but managed to make it to the end of the school year. We were convinced that by adding enrollment over the summer, we would be able to continue to keep the doors open. During the summer we did indeed increase the enrollment to a number that would have supported the school but unfortunately on the first day of school, many of the new enrollees did not show up.

Through August and September, we looked at many options to keep the doors open including but not limited to the hiring of a management company to take over operations, combining classrooms, reducing staff, selling the property we had purchased, etc. In the end, we did not see a way to continue without building excessive debt. My husband and I have put a great deal of our own money into this school (our choice) but the well dried up, we did not have funds to meet the needs to continue the school. We seriously doubt we will ever recoup that money. We also understand that this is a risk of running a business.

There were other dynamics to the financial issues that I will not go into in this letter as we adhere to strict confidentiality when it comes to personnel, students, business and potential business partners. I will not “throw anyone under the bus.” Needless to say, all of it related to enrollment or, more fitting, lack of enrollment. The bottom line is, I was the charter holder, I was the director of the school and I accept responsibility.

It is very important for me to let everyone know that the school complied with all legal requirements for students. We alerted staff and families the day after the Board voted to close the school. Understanding that the abrupt closing was going to be difficult for the children and their families we tried to do everything we could think of to help make the change as seamless as possible. We gave families a list of charter, private and public schools along with contact information and provided a handout about home schooling. The day after we let the families know we were closing, we contacted nearly every school on that list to let them know that we were closing and got information about openings they had. We shared that information with the families as well. I offered to meet one on one with any families that wanted help finding new schools. We made copies of all student records and made them available to families on the last day so that they would have the information to give to their child’s potential new school. The staff and I did everything we could think of to make the last couple of days at Camino as positive experience as possible.

I would like to thank the Maricopa community for the incredible support you have shown for Camino Montessori. From government officials to businesses to the wonderful families and children, I will never forget you. I truly hope that someday you will find it in your heart to forgive Camino for the abrupt closing.

Very Sincerely,

Judy Webster
Camino Montessori

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