Harborview, Montessori staff say transition has been smooth

Posted: Monday, November 24, 2008

Last year, teachers at Harborview Elementary School felt trepidation about some upcoming changes.

Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire
Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire

Teachers, staff and students were about to shuffle over to the next door Marie Drake building while Harborview was renovated during this school year. On top of that, the school was to share the Marie Drake building with the Montessori program, a public program that's been criticized for lacking diversity and has bounced around the district for years.

"Our big concern last year what that this obviously is a big transitional year for us, and to have additional work to merge in about 70 more kids made it a little bit more difficult," said Walt Chapman, a Harborview second- and third-grade teacher.

But nearly three months after this school year started, Harborview and Montessori staff said it's been a smooth transition.

"It's worked out better than I thought," Chapman said. "Montessori's done a really good job of trying to not have an impact on us."

The Montessori elementary program, which was located at Glacier Valley Elementary last year, is housed in a wing of Harborview far from other classrooms, and it operates on a different schedule that starts and ends about an hour and a half before the other classes at the school do.

"We haven't really met (Harborview students)," said sixth grade Montessori student Demaris Oxman. "I don't really mind that ... it's just different."

Harborview Principal Dave Stoltenburg said he hasn't heard of any disputes between teachers over the Montessori program this year.

"I went in to this trying to build bridges," Stoltenburg said. "Here's an opportunity to show how a professional staff can come together."

Montessori lead teacher Chris Trostel credited Stoltenburg's leadership for a successful transition.

"People have been warm and welcoming and sort of put aside their differences," Trostel said. "There's peace in the house, it's nice."

As for moving, Trostel said her students weren't very affected by moving downtown from the Mendenhall Valley.

"The Montessori program has moved so much we're pretty experienced in transitions," she said.

Chapman said the move also has been an opportunity for Harborview teachers to show their students how to adapt positively to a new situation.

And Stoltenburg said the shift one building over has allowed "pack rat" teachers to purge old and long-forgotten teaching materials.

Chapman said he found stuff dating back to 1970s in his old classroom when he cleaned it out.

"It was archeological, going through layers," Chapman said.

• Contact reporter Alan Suderman at 523-2268 or alan.suderman@juneauempire.com.

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