A Manchester couple is planning to open a private school in Bedford that will focus on collaboration, exploration and engaged learning.
Bedford Academy is hoping to open its doors this fall, pending all of the necessary approvals, and will serve students in preschool through fifth grade.
“We have a really cool curriculum planned. We are going to be STEAM-inspired,” said Roxanne Molina, co-founder of Bedford Academy.
Classrooms will be small in an effort to provide personalized attention, according to Molina, adding the youngest grade levels will have a maximum of eight students and the older grades will have a maximum of 10 students.
Bedford Academy is approaching the town’s planning board next week seeking site plan approval to convert an existing office building at 21 Eastman Ave. into a private school. Bedford Academy will also need approval from the New Hampshire Department of Education to operate as an accredited educational facility.
Molina, who has a 5-year-old daughter, said she was not satisfied with the level of education her child was receiving during remote learning this past year. As a result, she and her husband started a small educational pod in their Manchester home where other students participated throughout the past several months.
“It went really well and I started to think that there might be a real need here for something like this in the community,” said Molina, who moved to New Hampshire about five years ago from Florida. “This will provide another alternative option to traditional schooling, and without a religious element. Our goal is to focus on the whole-child development, and for every child to learn their full potential.”
If everything goes according to plan, renovations to the Eastman Avenue building will begin later this month, with construction expected to take about six weeks to complete. Molina said Bedford Academy plans to open its doors on Sept. 7 with a phased-in approach that will have small enrollment numbers.
“We are envisioning collaborative work spaces that will be very engaging, not teacher-directed learning,” she said.
Since there is a current tenant on the upper level of the building, Associates in Podiatry, Bedford Academy is planning to open in two phases, according to the proposed plans on file at town hall.
The first phase will include four classrooms on the lower level that will serve up to 38 children ages 3 to 6. After the tenant leaves in the fall of 2022, Bedford Academy is hoping to begin its second phase of operation by adding four classrooms to the upper level, according to the plans. This will allow for an additional 40 children.
The school’s full capacity will be 78 students across eight classrooms, as well as eight teachers, two receptionists and one head of school.
“The property located at 21 Eastman Ave. is located in the performance zone, permitting school use, and was selected as it includes all the required features to successfully operate a school,” Freddie Molina, co-owner of Bedford Academy and Roxanne Molina’s husband, writes in the operational plan being presented to the planning board next week. “ … A significant amount of planning has gone into ensuring an efficient drop off process that minimizes traffic flow issues for the surrounding neighborhood.”
School hours will be from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and after-school care will also be provided, according to Freddie Molina.
The couple may attempt a summer pilot program in the coming weeks if all of the necessary approvals are in place.
Roxanne Molina has worked in the field of education for several years as an assistant dean of student services and associate professor at Nova Southeastern University in Florida.