Montessori program moving to Marie Drake

Posted: Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Juneau School District's Montessori program is moving to the Marie Drake building next school year, the Juneau School Board decided Tuesday.

The 5 to 2 vote caps several months of debate over where the Montessori program should be housed. The nontraditional program emphasizes self-directed learning and has bounced around the school district for the last 14 years.

Most of the 100 students in the program will share the Marie Drake building with students and staff from Harborview Elementary School, who were scheduled to use the Marie Drake building next year while their school was renovated. The Marie Drake building sits next to Harborview Elementary.

The School Board's plan calls for Montessori's elementary school-level students to make the move to Marie Drake next year. The program's middle school students will join them at Marie Drake the following year - when Harborview staff and students would move back to their newly renovated school.

Montessori proponents say their program needs a long-term home where all of their students can be together. Currently, it's spread between two schools in the Mendenhall Valley.

Critics of the program say it's not diverse enough, and is a burden for the traditional schools that share space with it. Harborview parents and teachers repeated their requests to the School Board on Tuesday not to move the program to Marie Drake.

About a dozen people showed up to comment at the meeting.

School Board members Destiny Sargeant and Sean O'Brien said the move to Marie Drake would have the "least impact" on the district as a whole.

The School Board also made changes to the Montessori program's student selection process it said would encourage a more diverse student enrollment.

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