Getting students back in class full-time a priority for Steamboat Montessori
The school has been using a hybrid-model sending some cohorts of students to school in the morning and others in the afternoon each day of the week.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Being a small school has been somewhat advantageous during a pandemic for Steamboat Montessori, with the school being able to avoid any major outbreaks of the virus this school year.
The school has been using a slightly different hybrid model than other schools in Steamboat Springs that has students in cohorts with one coming in the morning and the other in the afternoon each day of the week.
Head of School Michael Girodo said this model has worked well as they have only needed to quarantine three classes, mostly for close contacts or cases in a student’s family. Being a Montessori school also has been helpful.
“The children have a lot more self-directed independence, in they can follow directions, and they can work online more successfully as they get older,” Girodo said.
For younger students, it is more challenging, Girodo said, which is why getting students back in school full time is a priority for the school.
Steamboat Montessori, which recently changed its name from Mountain Village Montessori, has about 135 students from kindergarten to fifth grade. This fall, the school will expand to sixth grade as well, with that class eventually growing the school to eighth grade.
The school has another roughly 25 students in its private preschool. Open enrollment for the school is currently ongoing, and the lottery will take place Feb. 8.
Part of the Montessori model groups different grades of students together. As the school grows, Girodo said sixth graders would be grouped with fourth and fifth graders because the curriculum they use is approved for sixth grade. Over the next few years, they will group seventh and eighth graders together.
Students would still be able to participate in athletics and other activities after school at the middle school.
Girodo said larger lesson plans take place in class, but for other subjects like math, many students are learning at their own levels already. He said parents of former students now at Steamboat Springs Middle School have told him the self-direction learned at the Montessori school has benefited them now.
“Students have a lot of self-directed learning,” Girodo said. “They have their work plans. Teachers are not really teaching to large groups all day long. They are teaching to small groups. Some of the work you are doing in the classroom will carry into online work.”
Despite less time in the classroom each day, Girodo said their students are learning more when they are in class.
“It is an ironic thing, with less kids in the class, they actually learn more and have less behavior issues just because of smaller groupings,” Girodo said. “In many ways, it is kind of an ideal situation, but it is challenging for parents.
Girodo said he has been working closely with the Steamboat Springs School District and state health officials about when Steamboat Montessori should return to full-time, in-person learning.
The school has a task force working on a strategy to get back to all-day learning for students. School leaders also are working with COVID Check Colorado to test staff, and they offered it to parents at the end of break.
“I think we just have to mitigate safety and balance that with parents needs,” Girodo said. “It is clear that 80% to 90% of our parents want to be back in the classroom all day for their kids.”
While they are working with other education partners in the county about when to bring students back full time, Girodo said they do not have to coordinate with other schools.
“We don’t plan to follow necessarily, and we’re not required to follow what the district does, so we have that independence,” Girodo said.
That said, he is taking into account factors like the recent surge in cases locally and when teachers will be able to get the vaccine. While getting students back in school full time is important, Girodo said the school still needs to consider how it will affect the community.
“Cases are surging, and the district is quarantining more kids than they ever have,” Girodo said. “We don’t want to rush it.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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