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Montessori becomes public charter school

Posted: February 12, 2018 4:47 p.m.
Updated: February 13, 2018 1:00 a.m.

The Montessori School of Camden (MSC) received a charter as a public charter school by the Charter Institute at Erskine (CIE), which is run by Erskine College, in Due West on Friday.

According to a press release, MSC’s charter committee presented its case to CIE’s board of directors, emphasizing the school’s almost four decades of successful Montessori education of children. MSC will open as a charter school in July, following all statutes and regulations that apply to public charter schools.

As a public school, a Montessori education will be available to more children, with no charge for kindergarten age and above; children age 3 and 4 will pay an instructional fee. Dr. John Moncure, headmaster of the existing private Montessori school, expressed gratitude to CIE for recognizing the capacity of the school to serve the needs of children, and to the charter committee, led by the Rev. Eric Faz, for its hard work in preparing the 250-page application.

“Some years ago, our board had a vision to meet the needs, not only of those who could afford private school tuition, but to all who recognize the value of a Montessori education. Their dream is now fulfilled,” Moncure said in the press release.

Since its charter comes from CIE, MSC will accept students who are residents of South Carolina, but it expects most will come from Kershaw and surrounding counties. Initially, the school will include grades K-3 through 6th Grade, and will expand to include 7th Grade in 2019 and 8th Grade in 2020. Admission will be by lottery. The infant and toddler programs at the school will revert to the school’s original name -- Montessori Learning Center -- and continue to operate as a private school.

During its first public charter year, MSC expects to open its doors with 100 students in classes ranging in size from 16 to 24 students. The school will gradually expand yearly, adding new classroom buildings in 2019, 2021 and 2023, with full capacity eventually reaching 280 students.

The school will operate a “year-round” calendar, with the 180 days grouped into four equal “quarters” with optional three- to five-week “intersessions” that will offer a focus on special topics of interest. This method is widely viewed as an antidote to the degradation of information that accompanies the long traditional summer break.

According to the press release, the Montessori method of education has been a proven model since the early 1900s, and is currently used in more than 500 U.S. public schools, including more than 50 in South Carolina. As a public charter school, MSC will continue to educate “the whole child” by offering multi-aged classrooms where children are encouraged to become highly motivated, independent, self-confident individuals while being given the opportunity to reach their fullest potential. An additional benefit of the conversion to a public charter school is the increase of revenue into the county -- estimated at almost $500,000 in state and federal funds during the first year alone, as well as the work and revenue generated by the construction of new facilities.

According to the press release, the Montessori method focuses on teaching children to see the world from a global perspective. Cultural and racial diversity is celebrated. Foreign language, either Spanish or Mandarin Chinese, will be interwoven through the daily classroom routines. Montessori teachers are taught to “follow the child,” and adjust lessons according to the needs of individual students. Students collaborate with their teachers to develop weekly work plans, and have the freedom to follow their personal interests. Classrooms are dynamic environments which invite inquiry and discovery, where students learn about language, science, mathematics and cultural studies using hands-on lessons and concrete models as they develop a love of learning.

For more information, call MSC at (803) 432-6828, write to MSCcharter@gmail.com, or visit the website at www.montessori-camden.com, which includes a link to FAQ for the charter.

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