When school starts this fall, all prekindergarten and kindergarten students in Longview ISD, except for students at the Regional Day School for the Deaf, will have to attend East Texas Montessori Prep Academy.
The board of trustees approved the change at a special meeting Wednesday.
Superintendent James Wilcox said the move was needed because the campus at Johnston-McQueen Elementary School, which has been offering pre-K and kindergarten classes, is full.
Assistant Superintendent Horace Williams said 748 students are enrolled at Johnston-McQueen, and the school has no vacant classrooms. Two additional teachers were hired this year, but the campus has no potential for growth, he said..
“By taking the pre-K and K, we are now opening an additional seven to eight classrooms, which gives us additional growth,” Williams said. “The same thing happened when we moved Montessori pre-K and K from all the other elementary schools — it gave growth to Ware (Elementary School) a few years ago.”
Williams said Ware was at capacity with more than 800 students at the time.
“We currently have approximately 198 students in pre-K and K at Johnston-McQueen,” he said. “That gives us room for additional growth there without the need to build a new building for a new school.”
Despite that, some trustees voiced concerns about the move.
Chris Mack, place 3 trustee and board secretary, said he believes the district will receive some resistance to the decision.
“We force-fed things to people in the past, and sometimes it doesn’t go well, so we provide an option,” he said. “Now, I guess you feel like it’s the best deal, so we’re going with this, but I guarantee you we’ll get some resistance from some parents.”
Ted Beard, place 6 trustee, also expressed concerns about the move.
“I kind of share concerns as to I wish this was done when we initially started the Montessori program to really benefit all students at that time,” he said.
In 2008, taxpayers approved a $226.9 million bond that funded all elementary schools except Johnston-McQueen and Hudson PEP to have the Montessori program for Head Start, pre-K and kindergarten students.
Johnston-McQueen was not built to include Montessori — defined as a system of education for young children that seeks to develop natural interests and activities rather than use formal teaching methods — because the district wanted parents to have an option for a traditional early childhood campus.
Now, Wilcox said he believes this is the best route to take for all pre-K and kindergarten students.
“When we initially made these proposals then, 11 years ago, most people in the United States didn’t really understand and most have not had interaction with a Montessori program,” he said. “They didn’t know what it was, and anytime you don’t know what something is, there is resentment or apprehension.”
Wilcox said no other district in the U.S. is doing a districtwide Montessori program.