Montessori group moves forward with plans

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— The Steamboat Springs Montessori Steering Committee is making strides in establishing a public Montessori charter school after submitting a charter proposal to the Steamboat school district last Friday.

"It's moving forward toward bringing public Montessori," steering committee member Carrie Requist said. "We think Montessori will be a great addition to the community."

The Montessori Steering Committee began discussions with the district nine months ago with the goal of implementing a public kindergarten through sixth grade Montessori program. Of the options the steering committee proposed, the charter became the most feasible after local school principals and administrators decided trying to incorporate a Montessori program within the current elementary schools would be detrimental to the overall success of the schools.

John DeVincentis, principal at Strawberry Park Elementary, said students at both elementary schools are doing extremely well and allowing a strand of Montessori into each school would invite other educational groups to lobby to include their practices within the schools as well. He said maintaining high educational standards requires stability within the schools.

Steering committee president Jody Patten said while she thinks the school system works well for the majority of students, some are still left behind. Montessori helps develop children's confidence and self-directedness, which is essential for developing a lifelong love for learning, Patten said.

She said children are never self-conscious about their academic abilities in a Montessori school because each child has an individual learning plan. The Montessori teacher guides his or her students but doesn't require children to learn topics they are not ready to learn. The combined philosophy of Montessori, Patten said, would benefit children who do not learn best in a traditional learning environment.

Deciding what is best for the community is something the local Board of Education will have to tackle.

Now that the district has received the charter application, the school board has 75 days to have the charter reviewed by the District Accountability Team, hold community meetings and decide whether to accept or oppose the charter.

Requist said the committee hopes to work with the district on specific issues over the next 75 days.

The Board of Education has three options: It can approve the charter, approve it with conditions or reject it. If the board does not pass the charter or accepts it with provisions, the steering committee can appeal the board's decision to fail it or the provisions that were requested to the State Board of Education.

Board of Education members expressed their concerns about the charter at the school board meeting Monday night. Most board members said they felt it would be a financial burden to the district and is unnecessary.

But Patten said a Montessori school would give families a much-needed public education alternative. She said private schools in Steamboat Springs do not provide the same options because of financial and ideological reasons and the parents of the community should be the ones deciding if there is enough public school choice.

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