Easy being green: Hilltop Montessori opens nature-friendly doors

JUSTIN AVERETTE / News Editor

Eleven years ago, preschool teacher Cindi Stehr founded a small Montessori school with just eight students and a dream.

&8220;I began the school after having worked in a Montessori school,&8221; Stehr said. &8220;I believed in the Montessori concept and wanted my daughter to continue her Montessori education.&8221;

Stehr&8217;s school, Hilltop Montessori, began in the basement of the Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Hoover. As her daughter and other students grew, so did the school.

&8220;When my daughter needed a first grade teacher, I hired one,&8221; she said with a laugh. &8220;I used to stand outside the church and watch as the children played. I would dream of how the school could grow.&8221;

On Monday, Feb. 19, Stehr&8217;s dreams became a reality when Hilltop Montessori dedicated its new $2.3 million environment-friendly &8220;green school.&8221;

&8220;It is exciting to know we have a home and never have to leave,&8221; Stehr said.

The school is built under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) guidelines.

LEED certification requires builders to enhance and protect natural habitats, conserve natural resources, reduce solid wastes, decrease greenhouse gas emissions and improve air and water quality.

&8220;We were trying to decide what type of facility would best fit the school,&8221; Stehr said. &8220;We did a lot of research and found that a LEED certified green school was best suited for our school.&8221;

The new Hilltop facility is one of the few non-residential green buildings in Alabama and the southeast. The school was built in Mt Laurel, where EBSCO donated a five-acre site.

HKW Architects built the school to be energy efficient. Large windows allow natural light into classrooms. Stehr said rarely do teachers ever have to turn on the fluorescent lights. The school also has energy saving heating and cooling units among other special features.

&8220;Six years ago, a group of visionaries firmly believed in building a green facility,&8221; said Rita Smith, chair of the green school action committee. &8220;I like to say that we have gotten the biggest and best green for our buck. &8220;