Mov­ing to­ward a new model

Montes­sori pro­gram closer as money ap­proved for 2 class­rooms at Brookside

The Norwalk Hour - - FRONT PAGE - By Kelly Kul­tys

NORWALK — The school dis­trict will take its first steps to­ward im­ple­ment­ing a Montes­sori model at Brookside Ele­men­tary, with the tran­si­tion of two class­rooms this sum­mer.

The Com­mon Coun­cil ap­proved al­lo­cat­ing up to $40,733 last week to add fur­ni­ture and tran­si­tion two preschool class­rooms to fit the needs of the model.

Wil­liam Hodel, the di­rec­tor of fa­cil­i­ties and main­te­nance for Norwalk Pub­lic School, said in a let­ter to Com­mon Coun­cil mem­bers that there are about 565 pub­lic or char­ter Montes­sori schools in about 45 states across the coun­try, in­clud­ing four in Con­necti­cut.

“As a re­sult of the suc­cess of the pro­grams, Norwalk is pur­su­ing a pro­gram of its own,” Hodel wrote.

Thomas Hamil­ton, the chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer for Norwalk Pub­lic Schools, told the coun­cil’s Land Use Com­mit­tee ear­lier this month that the goal is to start the pro­gram with 3- and 4-year-olds and “build it out.”

“It’s a highly sought-af­ter pro­gram,” he told the com­mit­tee.

The pro­gram, which was de­vel­oped by Maria Montes­sori in the slums of Rome in the early 20th cen­tury, aims to be “stu­dent-cen­tric” and focused on learn­ing through discovery and ex­plo­ration. The method in­cor­po­rates a lot of “stu­dent-choice” into ac­tiv­i­ties and they of­ten learn through do­ing day-to-day tasks, such as math and sci­ence through mea­sure­ments for cook­ing

While coun­cil mem­bers ul­ti­mately voted to ap­prove the al­lo­ca­tion of funds, a few ques­tioned how the model would work.

“How does this help the stu­dent ex­pe­ri­ence if you reach the point where you no longer have it?” Coun­cil­man Greg Bur­nett, an at-large Demo­crat, asked the school of­fi­cials.

The plan would be to roll it out for preschool stu­dents first, and grad­u­ally add grade lev­els up to about sixth grade, Hamil­ton and Hodel said.

“Are we treat­ing this as a new pro­gram or a trial?” Coun­cil­man Nicholas Sacchinell­i, an at-large Demo­crat, asked.

Su­per­in­ten­dent of Schools Steven J. Adamowski said in April that the long-term goal would be to cre­ate six classes within the school that par­ents could opt in to, sim­i­lar to the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the dual lan­guage mag­net at Sil­ver­mine School.

There would be to pri­mary class­rooms, ages three to six, two lower ele­men­tary (ages six to nine), and two up­per ele­men­tary (through sixth grade), that would be rolled out grad­u­ally, potentiall­y over a decade, be­gin­ning with two pri­mary classes.

As a dis­trict Montes­sori, first pref­er­ence for the classes would hy­po­thet­i­cally go to Brookside par­ents and en­roll­ment would be de­cided by a lot­tery.

Adamowski said in April that Brookside’s di­verse stu­dent pop­u­la­tion — about 60 per­cent el­i­gi­ble for free and re­duced lunch and about 70 per­cent high needs — would lend it­self read­ily to the Montes­sori model.

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