Longview ISD Board of Trustees unanimously approved a bid of $31,250,000 from WRL General Contractors for the construction of a new Montessori campus for Pre-K/Kindergarten students.
Projected to open in fall 2017, the new facility will be located near U.S. 259 and U.S. 80 and will be funded out of the district's fund balance.
Back in December the board approved final plans for the 150,000 square-foot campus that will hold upwards of 1,400 students in more than 60 classrooms. Plans for the new facility include an outdoor playground with learning gardens, art and music rooms and a stage in the cafeteria. The Montessori program allows children to work and learn at their own pace and encourages individualized instruction. "(LISD's Montessori program) is a tremendous asset for our youngest learners," said Superintendent Dr. James Wilcox. "I am thankful for the Board of Trustees for moving forward with our efforts to provide the best possible learning environment for our students, as well as facilities and resources for our excellent education professionals." Director of Early Childhood and Montessori programs Dr. Jacqueline Burnett was principal of the former G.K. Foster Montessori Magnet School when first implemented by LISD in 2005. Burnett said the district currently staffs 50 Montessori teachers, but plans to hire more in spring 2017. "Montessori teachers at Bramlette, Everhart, South Ward, Ware and Ned E. Williams have to be trained through the center of guided Montessori services based in Florida; it’s an online and a face-to-face training center," she said. "Each campus has different numbers of Pre-K classrooms ... all Pre-K and Kindergarten students are in the Montessori program." The main difference between traditional Kindergarten and the Montessori program Burnett said is that the traditional approach "addresses everyone on the same level."
"Montessori looks more at the individual child. We give a quick assessment then we introduce lessons according to where they are," she said. "If you have a Pre-K student coming in that has some background knowledge and knowing letters and sounds, then through our progression of our language materials we will move the child in. That is how it is throughout all of our five areas."
Burnett explained that the program also teaches about the student's practical life, "which is daily things, lessons we see that children might need." "For example, Dr. Montessori when she was in the school she set up, she saw that children couldn't tie their shoes. So there’s a lesson that addresses tying shoes," she said. "In practical life, you also see pouring. We use real materials, so if we are going to teach them how to pour, it’s a glass pitcher." This approach, Burnett said, teaches students to concentrate on slowing down their movements "because it eventually helps them later on in life in reading." "Everything is from a left to right progression," she said. "So when you’re getting ready for reading — from left to right — then they learn to slow down and control their movements. Another important difference, Burnett said, is that the children in Montessori are moving at their own pace. As a result, the teacher is doing a lot of observation and recording. "When you watch the kids and they are doing a lesson — it could have been done wrong — but eventually they have to go back and show the teacher, because a lot of the materials are self-correction," she said. "They have a control chart to help them see how it should look." In addition to the educational benefits, Burnett said the program offers an education that many pay a premium for, free of charge as a public school. "You don't have to live in Longview," she said. "Dr. Wilcox has opened up our district to transfers so the parents can just do an out of district transfer and then choose a school." Wilcox said Longview ISD believes strongly in "providing an opportunity for excellence to all." For more information about the Montessori program please contact Dr. Jacqueline Burnett at (903) 803-5900.