The Georgetown County School Board approved the charter for Coastal Montessori Charter School during Monday’s meeting.
After a presentation on the Montessori program, Dr. Kristin Bohan, chair of the planning committee for the new school, fielded questions and comments from the school board. While all of the board members seemed to be in support of the charter, there were a few concerns.
Bohan first became involved with Montessori when her daughter began attending Pawleys Island Montessori Day School at age two.
Though Bohan loved their experience with the Montessori program, she admits she found it exclusive and homogenous. She said it was “being hypocritical” to the true nature of Montessori. She saw money was a barrier, keeping many from accessing this type of learning environment, which is why she has sought to make Coastal Montessori a public school.
Vice-chairman, Dr. Arthur Lance, Jr., said he has spent the last week going over documents about Montessori programs. Coastal Montessori is proposed to be built in Pawleys Island, though its first year may be spent in space rented in an existing district school.
Lance said he has always had issue with school choice because of the “horrendous traveling length” kids can face when attending school in another part of the county. He questioned how kids from Andrews, who would really like to take part in the Montessori program, would be able to attend.
He pointed out how school test scores along the Waccamaw Neck are already high and said the issue of transportation will keep the school from truly making an impact on Georgetown County.
“I don’t know where you are going to put the school,” he said. “It looks good on paper, but in reality, transportation and diversity are going to be issues… Who will you be impacting in the end?”
Later Georgetown County School District Superintendent Dr. Randall Dozier said the school district has plenty of space in the interior of the county. “If you want to be more centrally located, we can accommodate that.”
Though Coastal Montessori could be located elsewhere in the county, most of its student interest letters at this time have come from the Pawleys Island area.
“If we locate the school in a part of the county where there is little interest or demand, we risk financial failure. Practically speaking, we need a certain number of students to make the budget work,” Bohan said.
She added the possibility of the Montessori school catching on in the county and increasing demand, justifying relocation.
Bohan has said in the past that transportation is an issue for all charter schools. Coastal Montessori is considering a contract with the district to allow students to ride regular public school buses to the charter school and money has been budgeted to ensure all students admitted will be able to attend.
Questions over how children with disabilities would fit into the Montessori program were also voiced. Board member Johnny Wilson wondered if the school would be able to take care of children with Individualized Education Programs.
Bohan quelled his concerns by emphasizing all teachers have to be certified the same way public school teachers are certified.
By Christine Anderson