Changes in store for SPS Montessori program | Families
Spokane Public Schools voted to move and unify the Montessori program from two locations to one central location. While Montessori parents are both excited and apprehensive of the move, the change solves a bigger space issue for the school district.
“They’re looking at this strategically,” said Kevin Morrison, Director of Community Relations for Spokane Public Schools. New legislation requires that all kindergarten through third grade classrooms have only 17 students within the next few years. The district is in need of 24 classrooms by this fall.
By moving the Montessori program into the Havermale building, where the Community School is currently housed, roughly half of the needed classrooms would open up. The Community School will move to Bancroft, and Bancroft will move in to the currently unoccupied Pratt Elementary building. Meanwhile, M.A.P, which is currently leasing a building on N. Foothills Drive will move into the annex buildings at North Central High School once construction there is complete.
Morrison says it’s a move that makes sense for all the programs involved, and a move that will have a big impact on the Montessori program’s ability to grow. With more classrooms available at the Havermale building, the program will be able to add more teachers and extend the program to include kindergarten and seventh and eighth grade classes. Currently the students are accepted into the program through a lottery and it only serves first through sixth grades.
“They need a unified site to allow for collaboration between teachers and to stay true to the Montessori philosophy,” said Jennifer Knickerbocker, President of the Community of Montessori Parents. She adds that it was always the intention to have to program, which has six classrooms at Jefferson and four at Balboa, unified in one space.
“It’s something incredibly special,” said Knickerbocker. All of the Montessori teachers in SPS have been certified through the American Montessori Institute and long term, Knickerbocker said CoMP would like to open an AMI teacher training center. Having a unified Montessori site would help in that long term goal and provide a space for teachers to train.
While CoMP is excited about the program change, that doesn’t mean there aren’t concerns. While at Jefferson and Balboa, parents have enjoyed bus transportation and child care before and after school. The district did decide that they would provide transportation for one year to smooth the transition, but said that it’s always been the policy that parents that opt to include their children in special programs need to provide their own transportation.
“We’re curious what we’re signing up for,” said Knickerbocker, adding that like with all new things, parents just aren’t sure what the new situation will look like. “That’s scary.”
Despite other concerns about being located along an arterial, and the near by bikini barista stand, Knickerbocker said CoMP is excited to be a part of the growing and changing Emerson-Garfield Neighborhood.
“All around the country there’s stories about Montessori schools opening in and changing the landscape of a neighborhood,” said Knickerbocker.
The Montessori program will move to the Havermale building in time for the 2014-15 school year. Informational meetings for both current and interested parents will be held at the Community School, 806 W. Knox, on February 20 and 22.