Frequently Asked Questions

Below are answers to frequently asked questions about The Franciscan Montessori Earth School/St. Francis Academy (FMES/SFA) and our admissions process. Please explore our website for more information on Montessori pedagogy, additional programs and activities, school history and our outstanding staff.

To visit our campus and classrooms please refer to our Open House schedule or contact our Admissions Director, Deborah Dahling (503-760-8220 x236; to arrange a tour.

How old does my child need to be to attend?
Children need to be 2 ½ years old and toileting independently in order to start in a classroom. For Children’s House, we have rolling enrollment, which means that once your application has been accepted you will work with your child’s guide to determine a classroom start date based on your child’s physical and emotional readiness. Our last start date of the academic year is March 1st. We encourage you to apply early to ensure a spot is reserved for your child if you anticipate them starting during the academic year.
How many students attend the Earth School, and what are your classroom sizes and student to teacher ratios?

We currently have approximately 310 students enrolled for the 2017-18 academic year. Our Children’s House classrooms can accommodate 25 students per class, Lower Elementary classrooms 25-28 students, Upper Elementary classrooms 28 students, and St. Francis Academy 50 students. In each Children’s House and Elementary classroom there are two adults; an AMI certified Montessori guide and an assistant. In St. Francis Academy there are four guides and an assistant.

My family needs care outside school hours. Is this available?

Yes, we have many options for busy families. Our Montessori Aspect Program which provides both before and after school care, our Athletics Program and a variety of extracurricular activities are offered on campus. Students can transition from the classroom to an after school activity or to Montessori Aspect if full day care is needed.

Do you have to be Catholic to attend?

We are an independent Catholic school with an openness to all people. Our welcoming community is one of religious and spiritual diversity that focuses on respecting individuality.

What is a Montessori curriculum?

Montessori provides an individualized education that fosters a child’s intellectual, emotional, spiritual and social development through a beautifully prepared environment, experiential education and provides a safe, respectful climate for independent choice. Our curriculum meets Oregon State standards and is accredited by the Northwest Association of Independent Schools (NWAIS).

Do you offer lunch?

Students may bring their own lunch or purchase lunch through the Noon Nutrition (N2) program which is offered five days per week for children in our full day Children’s House and Elementary programs. Students in St. Francis Academy (SFA) assist in the planning and preparation of noontime meals in the SFA kitchen.

What qualifications do Montessori guides hold?

All of our Montessori guides are trained and certified through the Association Montessori International (AMI) and must hold a Bachelor’s Degree prior to entering this Montessori training program. Many of our guides also hold advanced degrees.

Do you accept children who do not have Montessori experience?

Yes and our history informs us that children transition well from other educational models to Montessori. We invite you to learn more about Montessori classrooms by attending an Open House or taking a personal tour, then scheduling a classroom observation and a classroom shadow (classroom shadows are offered only for students entering second grade or above).

Do you offer a two or three day program in Children’s House?

We only offer a five day per week Children’s House program. As Dr. Maria Montessori discovered, children of this age thrive on consistency and routine. When students attend class daily, the environment becomes more predictable and the routine offers a sense of comfort and stability, both for the individual student as well as the classroom community. There is also a more successful continuity of progression through the Montessori materials for children that attend school five days a week.

Do you accept mid-year transfer students?

Yes, depending on space available. If you are interested in exploring a mid-year transfer for your child, please contact our Admissions Director, Deborah Dahling (503.760.8220 x236; to schedule a tour of our campus and classrooms

Can my child take a foreign language at FMES/SFA?

Our foreign language program offers Spanish and German from Lower Elementary through St. Francis Academy. In St. Francis Academy an optional language immersion trip program is offered.

How do students transition from Montessori to more conventional school environments?

Montessori educated students are thoughtful, independent and self-motivated. Regardless of level, we find that our students transition very well to other educational environments whether private or public.

What high schools do students attend following the Earth School?

Our students are recruited by several local private high schools (there is an annual high school fair held on campus) including LaSalle College Preparatory, St. Mary’s Academy, Central Catholic, Jesuit, Pacific Crest, Northwest Academy, Catlin Gabel, and Oregon Episcopal School. Graduates also attend charter and public high schools.

Do you offer transportation to and from the school?

We do not have bus or van service options. However, many of our families carpool and we offer assistance in finding carpool opportunities.

Is there a year round program offered?

Our program is not year round; it is a 10 month program starting in September and ending in June. The online calendar outlines our academic year schedule. A summer camp program, Camp FMES, is offered during June and July.

What can I expect as non-tuition costs during the school year?

Not included in tuition are costs for daily snack, some field trips, individual classroom supplies (paper, pencils, etc) and special project supplies. Expect $100-$150 per year additional classroom costs. The elective hot lunch program, Montessori Aspect (before/after care), athletics and after school programs are not included in tuition.

Do you offer financial assistance for tuition costs?

Financial assistance is limited and is reserved for students beyond their first year at FMES/SFA.

What is your application process and application deadline?

We meet with families and accept applications year-round for the current and upcoming academic year.