Moving toward a new model
Montessori program closer as money approved for 2 classrooms at Brookside
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.