SUNDAY EDITION | Central High makes bid to expand popular Montessori program in JCPS

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Four new magnet programs -- including a long-awaited high school Montessori program -- received the go-ahead from the Jefferson County Board of Education on Tuesday night.

A total of nine schools submitted applications for new magnet programs to start during the 2017-18 year, but only four were brought to the board for approval, including the first public Montessori high school program in Kentucky, which will be housed at Central High School.

JCPS officials have been talking about expanding the Montessori program to include high school grades since at least 2013, but no concrete plan had emerged until earlier this month -- when Central submitted an application to start a Montessori magnet.

“This is an exciting time for us and for this community because this is something we truly believe will meet the needs of so many students,” said Central High principal Raymond Green.

The other magnet programs approved include a guitar program at the Youth Performing Arts School at duPont Manual High and Science, Technology, Arts, Engineering and Mathematics (S.T.E.A.M) magnet programs at Brandeis Elementary and Olmsted Academy North.

Board members were not provided with the schools' actual applications before making a decision, which prompted concern from Chris Brady, who ultimately abstained from voting because he said he didn't have enough information to do his "due diligence."

Each of the four schools used the district's newly developed magnet application process in asking for the magnets, said JCPS Chief Academic Officer Lisa Herring, in a report she will present to the school board.

The process required schools to present a clear rationale and detailed description of their proposed optional/magnet program including plans to sustain the program, curricular alignment and professional development needed to support the magnet theme, among other things.

Herring said each magnet application was "reviewed and approved to move forward by a cross departmental district team using a newly created rubric aligned to the magnet application and standards."

Montessori education is based on the work of Maria Montessori, an Italian physician and educator who discovered that many students perform best in an environment that nurtures individual learning styles and provides children with the freedom to purse a self-directed education.

During class, teachers set goals for the students and they are given time to reach those goals on their own and with the teacher's help if needed. And students are encouraged to tailor the lessons to their interests.

The program at Westport started in 2010 with 50 students in one sixth-grade class. Six years later, it has grown to more than 300 students.

Reporter Antoinette Konz can be reached at 585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

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