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D-11 Montessori school seeks to add sixth-grade students

By: CAROL MCGRAW
May 11, 2011
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There could be a new sixth grade class on the west side if the Colorado Springs School District 11 board likes the idea.

Officials from Buena Vista Montessori Elementary School asked the board Wednesday to allow them to create a sixth grade at their public school which is pre-school through fifth grade.

Principal David Brilliant said there would be no additional cost because the school has the needed materials and staff. The school’s programs for three- and four-year-olds are fee based, but the rest of the grades are a free public school.

“It’s a win-win situation,” Brilliant said before the school board meeting. He said that 68 families attended an information meeting recently, and 100 percent of them said in a survey they wanted a sixth grade. That would account for 45 percent of the 152 families at the school.

A group of supporters showed up at Wednesday’s meeting, but their numbers had dwindled by the time public comment on the issue was allowed about 9:30 p.m.

One woman said she represented about 35 parents who favored adding a sixth grade.

Another speaker said the school has been fantastic for her child and she supports the proposed change.

In the  traditional Montessori model, students are clustered in multi-grade classrooms. The first level consists of children age three through five. The  elementary classrooms are grades 1-3  and 4-6.

School officials said they would like to start out with a sixth grade class of 10 to 12 students.

The school is growing rapidly, Brilliant noted, and is projected to have 225 to 230 students next school year. They have added a fourth primary class of students in grades 3-5 and are expecting to add another in the fall.

He said the Montessori system addresses social and emotional components as well as academics. Children learn by doing, they learn from each other and they learn at their own pace. Under the multi-grade classrooms, the sixth graders, for example, would master their own skills and gain leadership skills by helping younger students learn.

The school is at 924 W. Pikes Peak Ave., in the building that formerly housed Washington Elementary.

The board, which had not started its discussion on the issue by 10 p.m., is expected to vote on the Montessori request at its May 18 meeting. Wednesday’s presentation was for discussion only.

D-11 administrators decided last month to eliminate a possible realignment of other westside schools into K-6 and other configurations to help with the budget cuts of around $10 million that are needed. The idea was nixed the because savings were minimal and some parents opposed the idea.

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