Work continues to transform the former Clarklake Community Church to a Montessori School.  The owners plan to open in September.

Conversion from church to school requires permits and coordination with various levels of government along with support of the community.  North Street lies between the building and the parking area.  Brad and Diane Smith had planned to move that road to the north so parents could unload kids without crossing the street.  Because of the complexities, that plan is being abandoned.  North Street will remain where it is, the parking area will be fenced for safety, and parents will walk their kids to the door.

Earthmovers operating in the area are preparing for an extension of the parking lot.


Brad and Diane Smith

The Montessori concept is not new to Diane Smith.  She currently operates the Countryside Montessori School, and the location here will become the Clark Lake Campus, licensed as a daycare center.  During the school year, it will serve up to 100 kids, 33 months to 6 years, including kindergarten age; in the summer, ages 3 to 8 with hours 7:30 am to 4:30 pm.  Diane says the Montessori philosophy emphasizes hands-on experience in the classroom and playground.  The curriculum is designed to lead children to “independence and confidence.”  Outdoor activity and learning is important, Diane adds.  The outdoor playground will be within the fenced area. It will be “natural with no commercial swings or climbers…expect to see wood, sand, rocks, logs, and even a sledding hill in the winter.”

Will kids engage with the natural wonder of Clark Lake?  Diane indicates the lake location will serve to enrich the science program.  Kids will collect algae and rocks, but will not be swimming or boating.

Diane Smith introduced the Montessori plan at a meeting of the Columbia Township board in March 2023.