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Montessori-style alternative school expected to be approved by TDSB

October 14th, 2011 · No Comments

By Perry King

A group of Annex-area educators and parents are eagerly awaiting the TDSB’s response to a proposal they put forward two weeks ago.

The working group—based at Annex Montessori school at Trinity St. Paul’s Church (427 Bloor St. W.)—formally told the board of their intent to bring a new alternative school to Ward 10 (Trinity-Spadina).

Although there are many Montessori-style programs in kindergarten programs across the TDSB, there is no specific school dedicated to a Montessori curriculum, or one that’s available for grades 1 and up. “These are for parents who want to support the public system or can’t afford the private system. There’s many different reasons why families don’t go on and continue into the elementary Montessori private school system,” said Aidan Roman-Crossland, co-chair of the working group.

Montessori schools, of which there are 7,000 worldwide, are particularly known for mixed-age classrooms, where students learn at their own pace (teachers attend to students individually rather than by class), and are traditionally located in in places of worship—although many of the schools are non-religious in nature.

“The teachers could have Montessori training, but they need to be teachers from the Toronto District School Board”—Chris Bolton, TDSB chair

Tentatively named Vista Alternative School, the school wants to provide a more self-directed, independent approach to teaching than currently offered by the TDSB, and orient more project-based activities for students. But, the school will have to comply with the TDSB’s policies and procedures for employment, and has to be cost-free for applicants.

“The teachers could have Montessori training, but prior to that they need to be teachers from the Toronto District School Board. Philosophically, we can work within certain parameters, but it does present a problem for people who may think that it’s simply going to be a Montessori school [that’s] inside the Toronto District School Board,” said Ward 10 trustee and board chair Chris Bolton.

Cristina Juarez Nilsson, outreach coordinator for the working group, says that the document will go through the TDSB’s local and central feasibility committees, who will make recommendations and referrals about how the school will be shaped. Once approved, the board and the school will look into surplus space that could house the school.

With a projected enrollment of 60 students ranging from Grades 1 to 3, and expectations of expansion once these students reach Grade 4 and up, Bolton notes the school needs to prepare long-term growth and sustainability. “We may have the space now but will we have the space in the future, and will we have the space to move from three classrooms to four or five or six in the future? Not necessarily,” said Bolton.

Given the precedent of numerous local alternative schools and a supportive local trustee, the proposal is expected to be approved.

Enrollments for Vista could begin as early as the 2012–2013 school year.

In our print version of this article, it was reported that Bolton had referred to the Waldorf Academy as a school that operates as an alternative school in the TDSB. In fact, the Waldorf Academy is a privately-operated institution.  

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