Re-1 to continue Montessori program |

Re-1 to continue Montessori program

Post Independent Photo/Jim Noelker

The Montessori education programs at the Crystal River and Carbondale elementary schools will continue for the 2004-05 school year, according to Re-1 superintendent Fred Wall and the Roaring Fork School Board.

Wall reassured more than 50 parents, teachers, district staff and community members who attended Wednesday evening’s board meeting that kindergarten through fourth-grade Montessori education will remain at the Carbondale schools.

In addition, Wall said a fifth-grade Montessori class and an additional teacher will be added at Carbondale Elementary beginning this fall.

“A year ago, we made a resolution to add a fourth grade this year, and a fifth grade for 2004-05,” said board member Bruce Wampler. “We’re bound by that resolution.”

Dealing with growth, success ”

and accountability

Montessori education has proven to be a popular option in Carbondale.

The Re-1 school district started offering Montessori education in 1999, after a group of parents whose children had attended Mount Sopris Montessori preschool in Carbondale suggested creating a Montessori kindergarten class at Crystal River Elementary.

Since then, the program has grown from one kindergarten class to include both Carbondale’s elementary schools. The program now serves more than 120 students in kindergarten through fourth grade.

However, board members and administrators said they have to address multiple issues in offering the alternative program.

Two issues, diversity and accountability, are at the top of the list. The gap is closing, but more Anglo students attend Montessori programs than Latino, a trend the district is required by the Colorado Department of Education to even out.

And because Montessori teaching and learning methods vary from Carbondale’s public elementary schools, other measures of student achievement need to be implemented ” also requirements on the state and federal education level.

“We need to get multiple points of data,” said assistant superintendent Judy Haptonstall. “It’s not just about one test score.”

Bargaining group to be named

Although parents and teachers attending Wednesday’s meeting appeared relieved to hear that rumors were false concerning Montessori’s immediate future at Carbondale’s elementary schools, many still had concerns over the long-term continuation of the programs ” and the need to move quickly in the short term.

“We still need to discuss class sizes,” said parent Nancy LaJoy. “At Carbondale’s schools, all class sizes have been reduced except at Montessori. Our teachers have up to 24 students in their classes.

“We have a shortage of Montessori teachers, and we have to look at that tonight,” she said. “If we don’t, we won’t get those teachers hired in time, and we’re going to lose students and parents.”

Board members and administrators told the group that instant answers to staffing and other questions wouldn’t be possible by the end of Wednesday’s meeting. But they did promise to put a process in place to look at Montessori education, with parents, teachers and administrators involved.

Re-1 board president Sue Hakanson described a process called interest-based bargaining, where instead of taking and defending positions, a facilitator meets with representatives from all interests, and works on creating common ground solutions.

Wall told the group he envisions a group of 22 members in the IBB team picked by their peers: Montessori teachers, non-Montessori teachers, principals, board members, and administrators.

The IBB group will meet for two intense days of discussion and negotiation with a facilitator, and will present its recommendations to the board on how best to manage Carbondale’s Montessori programs, now and long term.

By the end of Wednesday’s discussion, board member Michael Bair told the audience that they could expect that decisions on the IBB team would be made by the board’s next meeting in April, and that decisions regarding the long-term future of Carbondale’s Montessori should be made by mid-May.

“That’s great,” said LaJoy. “We’re all looking forward to it.”

Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518

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