Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy To Open Montessori Elementary School In 2021

  • Saturday, April 25, 2020

The Hamilton County school board approved an application, submitted by Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy (CGLA), which outlined plans to establish a charter elementary school in the Highland Park neighborhood. Located on the CGLA campus, Montessori Elementary at Highland Park (MEHP) will open in August, 2021.

MEHP will be a co-educational, public charter school that offers an educational program for children, PreK 3 through 5th grade. The school will serve families from all backgrounds and provide a dynamic, participatory environment that integrates Montessori childhood education with STEAM experiential learning.

With a career in education that spans more than 35 years, Dr. Elaine Swafford, who is CEO of CGLA and MEHP, is exceptionally enthusiastic about this new educational venture. “The Montessori method is a research-based blueprint for cultivating confident, agile thinkers,” said Dr. Swafford. “Because young minds are inherently curious, the Montessori program creates a stimulating and nurturing academic environment that sparks active exploration. I enjoy observing a Montessori classroom because little people are actively moving as they problem-solve and discover.”

The mission of MEHP is to cultivate ambitious, fearless learners through intellectually-stimulating, interactive experiences that awaken curiosity, nurture advanced thinking, and promote independence.

MEHP will open in August 2021, and parents have already been inquiring about the admission application schedule. Dr. Swafford encourages parents to “continually visit the MEHP website,, for updates. The application submission process will follow charter school protocol, and I anticipate we will begin accepting applications around November 15, 2020.”

Dr. Sue Anne Wells, cofounder of CGLA, is the founder of MEHP and believes quality elementary education is critical to academic success. “Research proves that an investment in a comprehensive early learning program will reduce and, often, eliminate achievement gaps and is a cost-effective strategy that improves the quality of a life in a community,” she said. “No doubt, the innovative program of Montessori Elementary at Highland Park will be the gateway for transforming lives in Chattanooga.”

The MEHP curriculum will incorporate STEAM project-based learning into the overriding Montessori method. Swafford highlights the complementary relationship between both approaches. Officials said, "STEAM project-based learning and Montessori are both hands-on, inquiry-based, and experiential educational models. Together, Montessori and STEAM will be able to shape a program that progresses in complexity and depth.”

For more information about Montessori Elementary at Highland Park, contact Justin Booker, CCO of CGLA, at or at 423.702.7230 or Dr. Elaine Swafford, CEO of CGLA, and MEHP at or at 423.702.7230.

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