Phone: 803-772-2262 • E-mail

Parent tours are held every Friday morning at 9:15am
All tours are given by appointment only.

Schedule yours on-line!

About M.E.L.C

The Montessori Early Learning Center and School of the Arts was founded on July 15, l976 . Founding Directress Ina Lightner-Fort opened the school for her two year old son.

While studying music in Europe Mrs. Lightner-Fort had seen the real Netherlands schools and considered the method non repressive and discovery oriented. She brought in an A.M.I. certified teacher (Association Montessori Internationale) from Sri Lanka and started with a small leased building and fifteen children. Thirteen of the original fifteen students have gone on to attend the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts. In 1978 a second son was born who grew up in the primary classroom with his now 4 year old big brother. Today both boys are adults and Ina continues to administrate the now much larger school in much the same way that she did in the 70′s.

The school encompasses a campus type setting with a custom designed main building of 7,000 square feet ,built to Montessori specifications, housing 6 primary ,multi-aged classrooms of children 3-6 years of age. The school operates in the purest European tradition and is not modified in any way. The school employs teachers that are AMI or St. Nicholas (British) certified.All classrooms are fully equipped with imported didactic apparatus. The Arts School was built in 1993 adding an additional 2,100 square feet. A small house adjoining the property has been converted into a library to house a 5,000 volume library that was donated to the school in 1996.

While the school has always embraced the arts for small children, it now has an Arts Center with a stage and recital hall that seats 200. The center has sound proofed music studios and dance studios. There is also a small studio for visual arts. Artists with the highest qualifications are brought in for group and private instruction. Recitals are held regularly during the year. The arts’ school houses the Children’s Ballet Company of Columbia, a non-profit training company for young and talented children. The company performs regularly in Columbia and other cities in South Carolina.

M.E.L.C. provides a two and a half acre playground with many unique activites such as the Shell Garden.The school has a new 50′X20′ covered and heated swimming pool custom designed for small children and also has an old fashioned “spray pool” for 3 year olds. Foreign Languages are offered at the school as well as gymnastics and private instruction in computer. The school has IBM as well as MacIntosh computers in the classrooms and also has a new sound proofed MacIntosh computer lab equipped with 10 Power Mac Performas, color monitors, 2 scanners and color printers for children as young as 3 years. Classes in “Poetry, Recitation and Drama” are very popular with parents and children alike. Strategy school teaches analytical thinking and chess and checker tournaments are held each Spring.

Entry age into the school is between 30 and 40 months. Children older than 3 1/2 are not eligible for admission unless transferring from another accredited Montessori school or elementary gifted program.

Visitors are given tours and information packages every Friday morning at 9:15 am. All tour are given by appointment. Schedule yours on-line!

Observation mirrors are installed in every classroom door for parent use at any time without appointment.

Appointments to tour the school may be made by calling the school at
Or e-mail

Children should not be brought for the initial information tour. Each child is required to have a “visit day” before acceptance into the program.

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Take the first step and schedule a parent tour today!

Call 803-772-2262 or E-mail MELC the office.


1101 Balsam Rd. Columbia, South Carolina 29210