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What's next for Montessori?

Q. The state recently instructed the Steamboat Springs School Board to revisit its decision to deny the Montessori Charter School application. From the Montessori Steering Committee's perspective, what is the next step in the process?

A. We are eager to resolve any outstanding issues with the school board and move toward a vote of approval. Presently, we are working to provide the school board and the superintendent additional information they requested and are also preparing to submit to the school board an addendum to our charter application.

The addendum will address the Colorado School Board's recommendations outlined in the remand letter of Jan. 22.

Q. One of the big questions for the Montessori charter school has been securing a facility. Where is the group in that process?

A. The Montessori Board is excited to announce the opening of negotiations with Colorado Mountain College to lease space in Munson Hall.

We are pleased that preliminary discussions of cost fall within our budget projections. This space has many unique attributes and opportunities for us and a Montessori School will be a positive addition to the campus community.

Q. Does the group still plan to open a school in the fall of 2003? If so, what are the hurdles to making that happen?

A. Steamboat Springs Montessori is on track to open fall 2003. The development of a charter school is a monumental and broad-based task. When the Montessori School opens in September, this committed group will have been working for two years. However, substantial challenges lie ahead, the most obvious is charter approval.

After that, we must acquire sufficient grant funding for start-up costs and we must meet some minimum enrollment numbers.

Q. This particular school board has made it clear that it is not in favor of new charter schools because of the financial impact on the district. How do you answer critics who say the Montessori Charter School will take away funding from the public schools?

A. A charter school is a public school; funding comes from the state through the local school district on a per-pupil basis.

Per-pupil funding "losses" are very modest at 2 percent the first year. As the charter school slowly grows, so does the per-pupil funding.

The district has time to plan for this growth. A strongly supported charter school is a successful school, proof of its value to the community and a positive addition to any school district.

Q. Last year, the Montessori Steering Committee said there were approximately 100 children interested in Montessori school enrollment. Has that number changed in the last eight months?

A. Ninety families have indicated a desire to enroll their 136 students in the charter school. Based on that, we are projecting an enrollment of 91 children next year.

We realize, however, that projecting enrollment for a new school is very difficult. Therefore we have contingency plans for opening with much smaller enrollment if needed.

Once we are approved we can begin early enrollment and get more firm numbers.

Q. How would you describe the Montessori Steering Committee's relationship with the school district?

A. Personally, I have only the greatest respect for the school board members and staff for their dedication. Although the process has been confrontational, I feel we can now make some positive strides forward and move to final approval.

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