Frustrated Murray LaSaine parents await Montessori decision, vote set Monday

Published: Jan. 23, 2015 at 11:11 PM EST
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JAMES ISLAND, SC (WCSC) - The future of Murray LaSaine Elementary School will finally be decided Monday, in a Charleston County School Board District Meeting.

Board members will decide whether to move forward with a full Montessori transition, or continue to offer a dual track, giving parents the option to choose between a Montessori or traditional classroom.

In 2012, board members first voted to transition the school into a full Montessori program.

The learning style encourages more independent learning, offers students freedom of movement, and has mix-aged classrooms.

Following community backlash, former Superintendent Dr. Nancy McGinley apologized to parents in the Murray LaSaine community for any miscommunication, also offering to compromise.

Kristi Brian, a former parent at the school, was among the first group of parents approached with the Montessori concept at Murray LaSaine.

"We didn't think it was going to be a complete Montessori transition," she said.

As part of a committee, Brian, and several others, toured other Montessori programs, including one offering a dual track.

"We thought a dual track model was what was going to be best for the community, and is what we were promised."

Brian was also among James Island parents who received a survey from school district staff, presenting options on potential curriculum changes.

Out of 121 surveys completed for Murray LaSaine, the majority of parents, 57, voted to add a Math and Science program, with Montessori earning the second-most votes, 44.

The school's PTA president, Shante Ellis said Friday, she fears community opinions are not being heard, and a full Montessori transition would phase out diversity, also sending traditional students to schools already overcrowded.

Kristi Brian agreed.

"It feels like as soon as the predominately white newcomers are there demanding full Montessori, that's where the resources are going," Brian said.

Right now, Murray LaSaine offers both Montessori and traditional classrooms.

In a committee meeting Tuesday, Interim Superintendent Michael Bobby said a full Montessori transition would take six years.  If approved, the process will start in the 2015-16 school year.

Monday's school board meeting begins at 5:15pm, and will be held in the district office at 75 Calhoun Street.

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