Officials discuss Montessori

School district still looking to hire teacher for upper class

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The Steamboat Springs School District is yet to find a teacher for its upper-elementary Montessori class.

The district's two elementary school principals and Superintendent Donna Howell will meet today to discuss what to do if a qualified teacher cannot be hired in time for the 2005-06 school year.

"At some point and time, you have to say, 'We don't have the teacher, we have to plan for next year,'" Howell said.

Such a contingency plan probably would involve offering only one lower Montessori class of first- through third-graders, which is what is in place now, Howell and Strawberry Park Principal John DeVincentis said. With a second teacher, two classes would be offered, one for first- and second-graders and the other for third- through fifth-graders.

There are 51 students committed to the Montessori program, and 28 of those are in first or second grade.

The district has had two applicants for the position, one of whom had teaching experience for lower- and upper-elementary Montessori, Howell said. That teacher, who would have had to get training in June, was offered the job but turned it down.

If a second teacher cannot be hired, the fourth- and fifth-graders would not be able to participate in the Montessori program, Howell and De----Vincentis said. Also, some students from first through third grades committed to the program likely would not be able to participate because the class would be too large.

Howell said she was not sure how long the district could wait for a teacher, but that waiting until August would be too long.

The district is hoping to find a candidate who, at the least, has lower-elementary Montessori training and who could take the upper-elementary training, Howell said. Ideally, the candidate would have experience teaching lower-elementary Montessori.

A second Montessori teacher will not raise class sizes for traditional classes at Strawberry Park Elementary School, Howell said. She said there will be some regular classes with more than 20 students. The number of teachers a school has to work with is based on the number of students divided by 19.

Because of student numbers at Strawberry Park Elementary School this year, a fifth-grade teacher was transferred to Soda Creek Elementary School.

About half of the students enrolled in Montessori are Strawberry Park Elementary students. If a second Montessori teacher is not found, student numbers at the elementary schools could change, possibly making another traditional classroom teacher necessary.

The district's Montessori program began this year and is open to all interested families, regardless of where their student attends school. Montessori is a century-old education method that emphasizes self-directed learning using a variety of hands-on materials.

-- To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail scunningham@steamboatpilot.com

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