Montessori enrollment discussed

School Board tackles ways to implement strand

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— More questions than answers were posed during Monday's night's Steamboat Springs School board meeting as it looked at creating a multiyear Montessori pilot program.

Strawberry Park Elementary Principal John DeVincentis gave an update on plans to incorporate a Montessori strand next fall into the school but said much of the planning hinges on enrollment numbers. DeVincentis would like to see those numbers finalized and enrollment under way by April 15.

Before enrollment begins, DeVincentis said, the district should decide whether the program would be open to students in other districts, how parents should be educated on Montessori and how the program should be advertised.

"Right away when I look at this, it generates more questions than answers," School Board member Michael Loomis said.

Enrollment would help determine what grades would be offered and how many classrooms would be created.

Training one teacher and setting up one classroom for Montessori would cost the school district $50,000, Superintendent Donna Howell said. That cost also would include sending a teacher and other administrative staff to a Montessori conference in Seattle.

To train a second teacher would cost the school district $14,000 more and setting up an additional classroom would add another $30,000.

Board member Tami Havener said she wants funding to train an extra teacher, which would give moral support to the first teacher and provide a backup in case the that teacher decides not to do the program.

But Havener remained cautious about adding another classroom as cuts have been made elsewhere in the district's budget.

Board member Pat Gleason said his decision to fund one or two classrooms would be contingent on enrollment and how many of those students are out of district.

The district's funding largely is determined by a state formula that allots a certain amount of funding per student. If out-of-district students transfer to Strawberry Park Elementary School for the Montessori program, additional funding would come into the school.

"If (the students) are coming from out-of-district, it is going to be easier for us to come up with money for the extra teacher," Gleason said.

Carrie Requist, from the Steamboat Springs Montessori group, said a survey has shown that 48 families with 55 students grades first through sixth would be interested in a Montessori program. Of those 55 students, 10 are out of district.

The district's creation of a multiyear Montessori program is part of an agreement reached with the Montessori group two weeks ago. In return, the group agreed to drop a lawsuit it filed in July after the School Board refused to accept a state Board of Education order to approve a Montessori charter school application.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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