Lawrence school district sees high interest in public Montessori program, with more than 40 children on waiting list

photo by: Richard Gwin

New York Elementary School, 936 New York St., is pictured in this file photo from September 2015.

Ahead of the first year of the school district’s free public Montessori program at New York Elementary, there is already a waiting list of more than 40 students whom the program won’t have room for.

The Lawrence school board approved the changeover at New York from a regular teaching method to a Montessori method in April, and the transition will begin next school year with the addition of a classroom called the Children’s House. The Children’s House will serve ages 3, 4 and kindergarten, and the district plans to add higher grades year by year.

The board’s action came as the district was discussing millions of dollars in budget cuts, due largely to declining enrollment, and district administrators proposed the changeover to offer more educational options and potentially attract new students to the district. Superintendent Anthony Lewis expressed optimism about the number of enrollment applications received and plans for the future.

“I’m excited with the incredible amount of interest families and staff have shown in being a part of the first free, public Montessori school in Kansas,” Lewis said in an email to the Journal-World. “We have received tremendous support from our community partners in Montessori education as we launch, and make plans to expand, this option for families and their young children.”

Enrollment projections used in the district’s budget process for the 2022-2023 school year estimated that New York would have one kindergarten class of 24 students, according to budget documents. Initially the district anticipated having two Montessori Children’s House classrooms of 20 students, or room for 40 students total. After applications opened this spring, the board gave the district the go-ahead to create a third Montessori classroom.

The district now plans to have three Children’s House classrooms of 20 students each, or 60 students total, according to information from New York Principal Sunny Halsted. However, at this point, 104 students have submitted enrollment applications, meaning that as it stands there will not be room for 44 of those students.

Priority for the program is given to students who live in the New York school boundary area and 3- and 4-year-olds who meet criteria for being “at risk,” including low family income. At this point, the district has received 41 applications for kindergartners who live in the New York school boundary area and another 13 applications for 3- and 4-year-olds who qualify as “at risk,” according to the information from Halsted. Therefore, as it stands, there are potentially six spots that could go to students on the waiting list if no other high-priority students registered.

Halsted said the school is confirming enrollment with the families of the 54 kindergartners and preschoolers registered and watching for any late kindergarten registrations from the New York attendance area. She said the waiting list is being reviewed to invite more families into the program as space is available.

The waiting list currently includes 13 kindergarten transfer requests and 37 applications for 3- and 4-year-olds. The Journal-World asked how many of the 3- and 4-year-olds currently registered for the program live in the New York boundary area, but the district had not provided that information as of Wednesday afternoon. Altogether, the 104 applications the district has received would be enough for about five classrooms of 20 children each.

District spokesperson Julie Boyle said all transfer requests were time-stamped, and after the prioritized students, transfer applicants will be accepted into the program as space is available on a first-come, first-served basis.


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