Smaller class sizes are coming for elementary school students, and there’s a long waiting list for Spokane Public Schools’ Montessori programs.
So district administrators came up with a solution for both: Move the specialized Montessori program out of Jefferson and Balboa elementary schools to one central location.
The school board agreed Wednesday in a 5-0 vote.
“This is an opportunity to expand a program that’s been begging to be expanded for a long time,” said Rocky Treppiedi, a school board member.
Balboa and Jefferson elementary schools each operate first- through sixth-grade Montessori programs. The programs together have 250 students. Most classrooms are composed of students in a three-year age span, such as ages 3-5, 6-8 and 9-11.
The board’s decision is about logistics and opportunity. The state has mandated that K-3 class sizes need to be reduced to 17 students within the next five years. Montessori’s popularity is growing, and district officials want to meet that demand.
More than 100 people attended Wednesday evening’s school board meeting, where parents voiced concerns about transportation and child care services.
Officials are still hashing out those issues. However, the board did decide to provide transportation for Montessori students during the 2014-15 school year.
“I feel if transportation is provided for one year (it) is just delaying the issue,” said Amy Walker, a Montessori parent.
But most parents who attended the meeting supported unifying the Montessori programs in one location.
“It feels like a dream come true,” said Sarah Bain.
“The Montessori program has a problem with coming across as elitist,” said Kelly Hankins, whose fourth son is now enrolled at Jefferson Elementary. “Segregating the Montessori kids is only going to make the perception worse.”
His wife, Teresa added, “It’s more about the change in location than anything else for me.”
Another parent pointed out the new location’s proximity to a bikini-barista coffee stand.
The board’s approval means the entire Montessori program will move into The Community School building at 1300 W. Knox Ave., freeing up more seats in the program and clearing out six classrooms at Jefferson and four classrooms at Balboa.
The change would also trigger the move of a few other programs.
The Community School, a project-based high school, would be moved to Bancroft School’s location at 1025 W. Spofford Ave. The vacant Pratt Elementary School at East Fourth Avenue and South Bradley Street would be reopened for Bancroft students.
“A lot of times the easiest thing to do is not make change because it upsets people,” said Board President Jeff Bierman. “But we have leadership now that’s willing to take that on.”