Montessori program may expand

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Growing interest in the Steam-boat Springs School Dist-rict's Montessori program could lead to a second class for the 2005-06 school year.

Superintendent Donna How-ell told School Board members Monday that the district is trying to get commitments from parents who have expressed an interest in enrolling their children in the program. As of Monday, the parents of 52 students who will be in grades one through five have expressed interest in the Montessori program.

"It looks promising at this point in time to have an upper elementary (class) for next year," Howell told School Board members.

The district created its Mont-essori pilot program last year after a lengthy battle with a group of local parents who want-ed a public Montessori option for Steamboat students.

Montessori is a century-old education method that emphasizes self-directed learning using a variety of hands-on materials in multi-age classrooms where students help one another.

As it exists now, the Mont-essori program has one class of about two dozen students in grades one through three. A full-time classroom aide assists teacher Linda Stansbery.

Based on preliminary numbers, the district could have a lower elementary Montessori class with students in grades one and two and an upper elementary Montessori class for students in grades three through five, Howell said.

"The hope is that we can get confirmation (from parents) and know that we need a second teacher so we can go out and get another teacher as soon as possible," she said.

Adding a second Montessori classroom would require the district to purchase another set of Montessori materials, which cost about $30,000. The district would use money generated from a bond refinancing it did last year to purchase the materials, Howell said. She described the refinancing proceeds as a one-time source of revenue ideal for a one-time expenditure such as the classroom materials.

The district would look to hire a trained Montessori teacher to lessen the potential costs of teacher training, she said. It's unclear what effect a second Montessori class would have on district staffing.

Strawberry Park Elementary School, where the program is based, has sufficient room for a second Montessori class, Howell said.

"We have some options," she said. "The space won't be an issue, at least at this point in time."

The first-year Montessori program was highlighted Mon-day during the School Board's "Spotlight on Success" agenda item.

Stansbery, who taught in a traditional classroom for 32 years, said that she loves the Montessori method and that her students have made tremendous strides during the year. She said an upper elementary class could help the Montessori program succeed in the future. She also told board members she's holding workshops for elementary teachers interested in learning more about some of the methods and materials used in Montessori education.

Diane Maltby, Strawberry Park's technology coordinator, said the program really has come together since it began in August. Maltby would like the rest of the school's teachers to have a better understanding of Montessori.

For more information about the Montessori program, call Strawberry Park Elementary School at 879-7550.

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234 or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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