Sussex Montessori School, If Approved, Will Bring A Second Charter School To Sussex County

The Delaware Department of Education received one application for a new charter school in the 2018-2019 school year: Sussex Montessori School.  For the parents of students in Kindergarten to 6th grade who are interested in the “Montessori Approach”, this potential second charter school in Sussex County, Delaware could change the face of many surrounding districts, including Laurel, Seaford, and even Indian River.  By putting an enrollment preference of wanting a Montessori approach, this school could already filter out some of the surrounding students due to a lack of understanding of Montessori methods.  Many feel First State Montessori Academy, which has a top priority preference for those interested in Montessori despite having a five-mile radius, is not balanced well with high-needs students in the area.

Where this application loses me is quoting the Rodel Foundation and Vision 2025, as well as using standardized test scores as a barometer for student achievement.  The application was submitted by Montessori Works, a non-profit 501c3 corporation.  They have received initial funding from the Longwood Foundation, the Welfare Foundation, and Discover Bank.  If approved, the plans call for a $4.4 million dollar 32,000 square foot facility on ten acres of land between Bridgeville and Laurel which the group expects funding by the above three entities or a financial institution.

I didn’t recognize many of the names with the founding group of this school, but a couple stuck out.  Trish Hermance was the Head of School for Campus Community until 2013.  Brett Taylor was involved with the Delaware STEM Academy which failed to open due to low enrollment and charter revocation by the State Board of Education.  But you can read the resumes of all the founding group and support.  Their feasibility study shows an initial student population of 300 students in the first year  (2018) and 450 students by 2023.

Last month, the Christina Board of Education voted 6-1 to keep the Montessori program in their district despite shrinking enrollment due to First State Montessori Academy in Wilmington a couple of years ago.  There are currently no Montessori programs in Kent County but the Jefferson School in Georgetown exists.  With that being said, the class size once children get out of pre-school and Kindergarten is only six to eight students per class.  It is not considered a good school by many parents in the area according to an anonymous source.  Typically, as in years past, the State Board of Education would vote on final approval at their April board meeting.

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5 thoughts on “Sussex Montessori School, If Approved, Will Bring A Second Charter School To Sussex County

  1. Kevin, as you note, there are currently no public Montessori programs outside of New Castle County. Sussex Montessori School, if approved by the Department of Education, will provide children in southern Delaware with tuition-free Montessori education, a 110-year-old method which emphasizes personalized learning, global and community citizenship, and self-direction. We are eager to spread the word about our work and the Montessori approach–for more information, see our website at http://www.montessoriworksde.org.

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    1. My only concern is parents who may not be aware of the Montessori approach. I would strongly encourage Montessori Works to get the word out to every potential student in Sussex County. I am not against charter schools but I think we have some in Delaware that cater to students without as many high needs compared to the local school district. We have seen this happen with First State Montessori Academy in Wilmington. They are an excellent school, but having the very first enrollment preference be an interest in Montessori actually eliminates many students in the surrounding area of the school.

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  2. You make a great point that parents may not be aware of the Montessori approach. To that end, as noted in our application, we have planned a number of informational initiatives in the community, including contacting day care and pre-school providers about Sussex Montessori School and benefits of the Montessori method; holding community events at libraries, PAL centers, Boys and Girls Clubs, and the like to familiarize parents and students with Montessori materials and approaches; and distributing literature in English and Spanish via mailings, handouts, and door-to-door campaigns. We would love your input as to other ways we might connect with the community.

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  3. Kind of interesting but to clarify, the Jefferson School, located in Sussex, is Montessori but private. Will be interesting to see if their population gets drained. Additionally, it would play better in the beach area vs. west Sussex.

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