Parents enroll students for Montessori

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The configuration and setup of a Montessori pilot program in the Steamboat Springs School District will be determined by the middle of April, district officials told parents at an informational meeting Thursday.

The number of Montessori classes and how those classes are configured is dependent upon enrollment numbers for the program.

The school district agreed to create a three-year Montessori program last month. The agreement was contingent upon the withdrawal of a lawsuit filed by Steamboat Springs Montessori against the district.

Nearly 50 parents attended Thursday's meeting at Soda Creek Elementary School, the second such meeting for families interested in learning more about the Montessori program.

Strawberry Park Elementary School Principal John DeVincentis, Soda Creek Principal Judy Harris and Superintendent Donna Howell told parents the district is committed to a successful Montessori program.

"I know programs like this can work," said Howell, whose son went through the Montessori method of education. "I'm confident we'll get a strand under way in the Steamboat Springs School District, and it will be very successful."

But the Montessori pilot program can be implemented only if there's sufficient interest in the program from area families.

That interest appears to be present. At least seven children who will be in grades one, two or three next year turned in intent forms before Thursday's meeting, DeVincentis said. Numerous parents filled out intent forms during and after the meeting, as well.

How many students enroll in the program and what the ages of those students are will influence the specific setup of the program. The district's intent is to start with one Montessori classroom for students in grades one through three. But the number of classes and grade levels could change.

"We're waiting to see the interest," Howell said. The district plans to make a decision on the setup of the program by mid-April, Harris said.

Parents attending Thursday's meeting came from all areas of the city and county, including South Routt. Parents asked wide-ranging questions about the program, including how the school will prevent a division between the two programs, how easily students will be able to transition out of Montessori and into the "best practices" model of teaching and what size Montessori classes will be.

DeVincentis said his staff is committed to maintaining a cooperative, unified atmosphere and that his experience shows that kids with Montessori backgrounds have little difficulty transitioning to traditional classrooms.

Class sizes for the Montessori program could range from 22 students to 28 students, Howell said. She also has authority from the School Board to approve a Montessori class with less than 22 students. The School Board will decide whether it wants to create more than one Montessori class next fall.

The program is open to students who attend any Routt County school -- public or private, though there will be a priority system favoring local students.

Montessori intent-to-enroll forms are available at Strawberry Park and Soda Creek elementary schools as well as in the district's central office on Seventh Street. For more information call DeVincentis at 879-7550. Intent forms must be turned in by April 2.

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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