Their first school site was the round Clairemont Emmanuel Baptist Church building at the top of Clairemont Drive, overlooking Mission Bay. Hence their name, Mission Bay Montessori Academy. MBMA then moved to the Martha Farnum Elementary School site on Cass Street, which is now the public library, and finally, to the old Marcy School site next to Marcy Park in 1985.
Dr. Foster founded this program as a small Montessori preschool in 1968. In 1974, Dr. Phelps acquired the small school and expanded it, allowing the students to grow and develop. The preschool flourished as the families stayed, and it expanded to a 6- to 9-year-old elementary school program. With the addition of older age children, MBMA had to find space to add classrooms, so the Jack Lelaine building east on Clairemont Drive across from the Sunset Bowling Alley was the place to do so.
Finally, MBMA expanded to a full elementary school up to the sixth grade, which is the program today, and the round church building could not hold its population any longer. The Martha Farnum Elementary public school on Cass Street in Pacific Beach, was a temporary location as they looked for a better suited location for the growing school. After a short two year stint, the city decided to turn the Martha Farnum Elementary site into a library. The school was torn down and rebuilt into the PB/Taylor Library where it stands today.
At the same time, Marcy School was closing in U.C., and the school district vacated the property. The Marcy School property became the perfect site for MBMA’s growing school. In 2005, Appleseed San Diego, a small group of family related owners acquired the school as Phelps retired at the age of 95.
MBMA continues to thrive, as they currently have La Casita, a program for 2 year olds, the Children’s House for 3- to 6-year olds, and their elementary, which teaches kindergarten through the sixth grade.
Some MBMA teachers have been with MBMA for 10, 20, 30 and 40 years. A few of them have worked at all three of their locations. Some of the staff joined after their children had already been students at MBMA, and some of the staff were students themselves.
There is a special environment at MBMA, where the parents, the students and the teachers are all a close knit community. It is quite unique that all of the teachers directly influence the curriculum to ensure that they provide the best learning opportunity for MBMA students.
Their Montessori curriculum is enhanced by special pull out classes: art, Chinese, computer, music, P.E., science and Spanish, which helps the student-to-teacher ratios to stay as small as possible in each classroom. This way, they can challenge the students appropriately as they learn at their own pace.
MBMA alumni have gone on to do great things and to speak of how this Montessori school gave them the solid base and foundation that they needed for life, school, work and family. It shows as some of their alumni continued on to be National Spelling Bee winners, get perfect scores on their SAT tests, drafted in the first round to Major League Baseball, and written music and books at the young age of 14 years old.