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Montessori School seeks charter school status

Posted: November 13, 2014 5:29 p.m.
Updated: November 14, 2014 1:00 a.m.
Simone T. Owens/C-I

Dr. John Moncure, headmaster of the Montessori School of Camden (MSC), in his office. Moncure, his staff and the MSC board are working toward obtaining public charter school status. For 35 years, MSC has operated as a private, tuition-funded school.

 

The Montessori School of Camden (MSC) is taking the necessary steps to become a charter school -- an independently run public school subject to its own laws -- after having served Kershaw County as a private institution for 35 years.

The school is applying to become a public charter school beginning August 2015 in the S.C. Public Charter School District (SCPCSD), which supervises and funds approximately 33 public charter schools in South Carolina

If MSC becomes part of the SCPCSD, it will become the fourth charter Montessori school in the state.

MSC Headmaster Dr. John Moncure said the decision to convert was made based on the need to grow the charter school movement and give more families the opportunity to pursue a Montessori education.

“The economics of our county do not permit us to grow like we want,” Moncure said. “By converting, we will be able to offer a Montessori education to parents who want something different for their children.”

After developing the idea and after MSC’s board met with a state charter school office representative, the school held a town meeting to inform current MSC families and others about the decision. According to Moncure, all parents of children who currently attend the school supported the decision.

Although state curriculum standards and guidelines will need to be applied and followed in order to be accredited, the school will maintain a Montessori learning experience for students.

“Montessori practices are not a South Carolina education system -- it’s a global education system,” Moncure said. “Montessori is designed around the child (as a) human being. It’s the only education method that can be employed equally in all countries.”

Students will still be encouraged to explore their personal interests and talents through language, science, mathematics and cultural studies using hands-on lessons and concrete models. MSC will also maintain its current faculty and staff, and hire as needed.

MSC currently offers education to children up to 12 years of age and has two 3- to 6-year-old classrooms and two lower and upper elementary classrooms. The future structure of the school will allow students up to 8th grade to receive a Montessori education and, eventually, provide four different classrooms for the age groups taught. Other possible plans will include adding a high school after the school has been up and running as a charter school. Although education will be cost-free for students who are in elementary school and upper grades, parents of 3K and 4K students will still be charged a fee since the state does not fund either grade, Moncure said.

Current students will be guaranteed a spot in the charter school. Other spots will be filled by lottery -- a charter school requirement -- involving MSC-associated students, such as children of MSC planning committee members and MSC employees as well as siblings of current MSC students. These students will be chosen first according to the number they are drawn during the lottery when spots become available. Moncure said additional openings will go to children who are not associated with MSC according to the order drawn in during the lottery. Applications will become available for a limited time; lottery times are yet to be announced.

 

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