by Amy O’Connor
On the small island of Key West, located at the southernmost tip of Florida, there are two Montessori schools that happen to be less than a half-mile from each other on the same street, which is coincidentally named United Street. This year they partnered to co-host their 5K race.
Founded in 1972, Montessori Children’s School is Key West’s oldest Montessori school. It is a private, non-profit school, and its programs educate children eighteen months to sixth grade.
May Sands Montessori School is Monroe County’s first charter school. It serves students in Key West and the Lower Keys from kindergarten through eighth grade.
The two schools are accustomed to having students and staff transfer from one school to the other. In addition, several families have children at both schools. The schools also get together each year for their annual International Day of Peace walk. However, this is the first year they have teamed up for a fundraising event.
There is so much energy and expense put into fundraising, so having the two schools split both of these was a great way to lighten the load. Not only did the number of registrants increase, but profits increased as well. Each school secured its own sponsorships but split the race registration proceeds and the expenses.
Often, private and public schools see themselves as being in direct competition with one another. Each school has its own fundraising events and tries to garner the most participants. By coming together as one, we are not only providing Montessori families at different schools the opportunity to get to know one another, but we are also celebrating our individual and shared experiences.
A few years ago, the company that records race times of the individual 5K’s suggested combining the races to save money. Both schools had been hosting their own 5K’s for many years. As the weather in Key West is beautiful almost all year round, fitness is a huge part of life here. In addition, it’s a popular destination point for out-of-towners who love a warm place during cold winters. Running, biking, swimming, and water sports are quite popular in the Florida Keys. Years ago, when there were just a handful of fitness events, the turnout at individual events was much larger. As more and more events were scheduled, participation at each event began to dwindle.
Due to COVID, both schools canceled their 5K events last year. This year seemed like a great year to experiment with a combined race. We couldn’t have been more pleased with the way this year’s race turned out. Seeing all the families together, uniting for one great cause, was truly gratifying for all involved. Perhaps there will be more shared events in the future. In true Montessori fashion, collaboration wins over competition every time. •
Amy O’Connor, Executive Director of Montessori Children’s School of Key West, has been involved with Montessori in some capacity almost her entire life. Her parents helped found the school in 1972. Amy’s three children attended Montessori schools in Essex, Vermont, and Key West, Florida. Amy has her Primary Montessori teaching certification as well as her BA in business.