Red Cottage Montessori

Red Cottage Montessori students explore a fallen tree. 

Red Cottage Montessori will close its doors in June 2022 for the best reason: a new Montessori charter school has been approved by the Minnesota Department of Education. 

Red Cottage serves children from 18 months to 6 years old. The charter school will extend the ages served to provide education for students through eighth grade. Creekstone also will offer Montessori education but in a charter school setting.

Kai Rodgers is the head and founder of Red Cottage. 

Kai Rodgers

Kai Rodgers, who founded Red Cottage Montessori in Red Wing and today works as the lead children’s house guide. A year from now, charter school Creekstone Montessori will open. 

“Red Cottage has served its purpose in the Red Wing community -- it has introduced this town to the wonders of the method and built a strong base of families that see Montessori education as a ‘fit’ for their children. Community support from the Duff Foundation, Red Wing Area Fund, Wings and Red Wing Shoe Foundation supported Red Cottage over the past 10 years paired with an amazing staff and parent body has set Red Cottage up to successfully close and welcome a public Montessori charter school,” she said. “Personally, Creekstone is a dream come true and I am truly excited to see its future in Red Wing.”

The proposal to launch the charter school was officially approved by the Minnesota Department of Education on Thursday, Aug. 5. But the work to get to this point began years ago. 

Elissa Behnke is chair of the Creekstone Montessori School Board. She told the Republican Eagle, “About a year and a half ago we put together a board who was cause-driven in sort of meeting community demand for Montessori education, and also in the capability of providing this form of education to a broader range of families and students in Red Wing without the hindrance of tuition costs.”

Behnke added that this was a passion project for her and, she said with a laugh, it was also an arduous process -- one of the hardest things that she has ever done. 

Creekstone is set to open its doors to students for the 2022-2023 school year. Until then, the board will be busy. 

“We'll take the year to continue to train; our board will train themselves and make sure we're being compliant to statute into law, because now will be considered a public school that abides by MDE standards. So, there is a little bit of a shift on how operations will unfold, but our priority will always be to provide an authentic Montessori education to students,” Behnke said.

The organization will also hire staff and teachers and find a space for the school. 

“We're still in the process of securing the facility,” Behnke explained. “We're sort of at the end, like approval stages, but we're just not quite there.”

Rogers, Behnke and the board of Creekstone believe in the importance of Montessori education and making it accessible to local families. Behnke stressed, “Education is not a one size fits all. Different forms work for different children, so if we're able to make an impact on one (child’s) life who didn't have access to this form of education beforehand, that's it. That's what's driving us.”

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