Members of the group of parents that pushed the Steamboat Springs School District to create a Montessori option for area students are questioning the district's commitment to making that program a success.
Steamboat Springs Montessori board members Tony Requist and Jody Patten told School Board members Monday they were concerned with how a Montessori pilot program is being designed and whether their group was misled when it agreed to drop a lawsuit against the district in exchange for the multiyear elementary school program.
Some of that concern stems from the district's decision to create only one Montessori class for the 2004-05 school year. Requist and Patten said enrollment in the program was sufficient enough to start the program with two classes, one for students in grades one through three and a second for students in grades four through six.
"Our understanding is that there were enough kids," Requist said during the public comment portion of Monday's School Board meeting.
Superintendent Donna Howell said the district was only willing to create Montessori classes that are comparable in size to other district classes. She also said firm enrollment numbers were lower than the 42 students cited by Requist, mainly because some families would commit to the program only if it were set up a particular way.
"We would not have had, in the end, two classes of 22 students," Howell said.
Members of Steamboat Springs Montessori thought they would be part of a district meeting to discuss enrollment figures before a final decision was made on how to implement the program, Requist said. The decision was reached without that meeting ever taking place, he said.
School Board member Pat Gleason told Requist and Patten that the board discussed on numerous occasions -- at public meetings -- the enrollment numbers for the program.
"When you accuse us -- which is what you're doing -- of circumventing this process, I'm more than a little bit upset," Gleason said.
Requist and Patten also sparred with the School Board and Howell over adding an aide to the Montessori class. Patten said that at one point there were up to 28 students enrolled in the lower elementary Montessori class.
"I recall very clearly you would consider (adding a classroom aide) if we got up to 23, 24, 25 (students)," Patten said.
Howell said she never considered adding an aide until the class size reached at least 27 students.
"I think you should refresh your memory," Patten said.
Patten said the district shouldn't be messing with a "school of excellence" unless it's fully committed to the new program. The program will begin this fall at Strawberry Park Elementary School, which has been rated a school of excellence by the state for the past two years.
"You don't appear to be modeling this on any successful Montessori strand that we know of in Colorado," Patten said.
Howell said the two groups need to focus on the future of the program, which she said she hopes and expects to be a success.
"I hope we can move away from what could have been to what is," Howell said.
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