Montessori charter school grows to 188 students
September 14, 2017
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Wednesday's are enrichment days at Mountain Village Montessori Charter School in Steamboat Springs, and on Sept. 13, the classrooms and hallways were filled with the joyous noise of youngsters learning to work as a team to lift a glass jar with multiple strands of string, forming a band and repeating Spanish phrases.
In just its second school year in the K-6 school’s location at the former Christian Heritage School, across U.S. Highway 40 from the Steamboat II residential neighborhood, enrollment reports enrollment in the K-6 has grown from 139 students at the end of the 2016-17 school to 188 students this fall, according to Head of School Michael Girodo. That increase was in spite of 10 students who did not return.
"We've built new classrooms," Girodo said. "We went from two to three lower elementary classrooms (first through third grade co-mingled), and we also built a grade 4-5-6 classroom.”
Each classroom is capable of comfortably accommodating 25 students.
Montessori is a teaching method that encourages students to be self-directed and make choices about the subjects they pursue. Teachers provide guidance accordingly and encourage hands-on learning and collaborative play.
During a tour of the school building this week, Girodo showed off a large classroom, painted in colors that evoked a natural environment. The expanded classroom was created by cutting large rectangle passages to link what were previously two smaller classrooms and an office.
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Asked if students at Mountain Village Montessori are required to take the same standardized tests that students in the Steamboat Springs School District take, Girodo said, "Yes," they do, and the best methods of preparing students for those tests, within the Montessori model, is a subject of ongoing discussion.
Girodo came to Steamboat Springs from his role as head of school at Jarrow Montessori School in Boulder, where he had also been a longtime teacher. Girodo replaced the school's original head of school, Michael Hayes, who couldn't pass up the opportunity to take the position of executive director of Compass Community Charter Schools in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Mountain Village Montessori also has new board chairman – Jeff Merage.
The fact that Mountain Village Montessori is not a private school but a public school organized by the Colorado Charter School Institute is something Girodo emphasizes.
"It's a public charter, with our own unique approach," he said. "I think it's important for parents to know that out there in the community. If you apply (to have your children admitted), you qualify for the lottery. It's random, not based on any criteria or interviews at all."
There is also no tuition, except for youngsters in the associated preschool.
Among the advantages of mingling students in grades 1-3 and 4-6, Girodo said, is that it makes students more comfortable progressing at their own rates. Students who need remedial work don't feel singled out, and students who are ready to work ahead of their "grade level" can more easily be accommodated.
Montessori also supports peer mentoring.
"What's wonderful about Montessori is that the students start teaching each other," he said. "It's not so teacher-centric; they're encouraged to work with their peers. Kids learn to be leaders from that."