Pilot program looks ahead

District will host Montessori open house for interested parents

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Barely past the halfway point of the 2004-05 school year, the Steamboat Springs School District already is looking ahead to year two of its Montessori pilot program.

The district will host a Montessori open house at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Strawberry Park Elementary School for any parents interested in its fledgling Montessori program.

"We're hoping we'll get any parents in the county who are interested in enrolling their kids for next year," Strawberry Park Principal John DeVincentis said.

The district created the program last summer after a lengthy dispute with a group of parents who wanted a public Montessori option for Routt County families. Montessori education emphasizes self-discovery and exploration for its students, using myriad hands-on learning materials to attract kids to different subjects and lessons. Multi-age classrooms are a staple of the Montessori method, which operates under the belief that a classroom's older students can serve as positive role models and tutors to younger students. The older students, in turn, reinforce their own understanding by helping their younger peers.

Last fall, the Montessori program began at Strawberry Park with one multi-age classroom serving about two dozen first-, second- and third-graders. Linda Stansbery is the school's Montessori teacher, and she's assisted by a full-time Montessori aide.

"It's seems to be going very well," DeVincentis said about the program. "The parents are pleased, and the kids like it."

Parent David Patterson agrees.

"I think it's been terrific," said Patterson, a member of the district's Montessori Steering Committee and the parent of a Montessori student.

District officials anticipate there will be sufficient enrollment of first- and second-graders to continue with a lower primary Montessori class next year. But there is uncertainty about the level of interest in a Montessori class for students in grades three through five. If enough parents make a commitment to enrolling their upper elementary students in the Montessori program for next year, the district will need to act quickly to advertise the teaching position and hire an experienced Montessori teacher. District officials haven't said whether they'll start a second Montessori class even if sufficient interest is shown.

"We want to determine whether or not there's going to be a level of interest to expand the program," Superintendent Donna Howell said.

At Wednesday's open house, DeVincentis, Stansbery, Howell and Soda Creek Elementary School Principal Judy Harris will discuss the district's current Montessori program, answer questions and show a classroom video detailing the functioning of a Montessori classroom and the materials used by the century-old method of education.

DeVincentis encouraged any parents who have any interest or questions about Montessori to attend Wednesday's forum. For more information, call DeVincentis at 879-7550.

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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