Wow! I have been out of the loop! Sussex Montessori School withdrew their application for their charter school to open up in the 2018-2019 school year. This happened on January 16th.
It doesn’t look like the Delaware Dept. of Education officially dug into their application because it is not showing any response from the DOE on their website, just the below withdrawal letter. I am actually surprised at this. There is only one charter school in Sussex County and there has been a plea from folks like Kendall Massett at the Delaware Charter Schools Network for more charters in lower Delaware.
The letter does indicate they will submit another application in December, 2017 for the 2019-2020 school year. This is probably the longest stretch where Delaware has not seen any new charter schools. If their next application gets approved, it would be four years between new charters opening anywhere in the state. But I would rather see them err on the side of caution and make sure they get it right then rush to opening. That didn’t work out very well for some charters in recent memory!
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.