Bremerton to bring Montessori students back home

Fred and Iklil Nye have had a difficult time finding the education best-suited for their two young children.

As Bremerton residents, they had no public Montessori option in district, so their son Ian attended Crownhill Elementary while he was on the wait list for Jackson Park Elementary’s public Montessori program in the Central Kitsap School District. He was accepted to Jackson Park in the middle of the school year, but was then denied admission again the next year. Because he didn’t flourish as well at Crownhill, the Nyes decided to homeschool their children this year.

That’s why Iklil Nye was the first in line Tuesday morning to register her daughter for the Naval Avenue Early Learning Center’s new public Montessori program in Bremerton. Ayla, 7, attended Naval Avenue’s Spanish Immersion program in the past, and will return to the school as a second-grader in the new Montessori this fall.

“We’re so happy,” Fred Nye said. “I think it’s really important to have that kind of alternative option.”

The Montessori style allows students to work independently on personal projects at their own pace. It focuses on an integration of arts, science, geography history and language, in addition to hands-on math lessons. Montessori students would be subject to all state and district educational standards.

In its first year, the Naval Avenue Montessori will accommodate 25 students from grades 1 to 3. Linda Sullivan-Dudzic, special programs director at the Bremerton School District, said the program will pay for itself. The 25 new students at the school will bring state dollars to pay for the teacher’s salary, and parents of the Montessori students have already pledged to raise money to pay for the materials, which are being leased from Anne Lahey, owner of the private Advantage Montessori preschool located in Naval Avenue.

The new Montessori will bring back families that had gone to Central Kitsap or private schools to find the Montessori curriculum they seek, Sullivan-Dudzic said.

“I think it’s really important that a school district, especially of Bremerton’s size, has options,” she said. “We have some of our families that we’re losing to other school districts.”

The public Montessori has been in the works for a couple of years. Sullivan-Dudzic said 21 families approached the school district last year with an interest in a new public program.

“There was just nowhere in Bremerton where they could go to continue their education if they wanted to stick with Montessori,” said Lahey of Advantage Montessori preschool, adding that tuition for private programs can be prohibitively high.

Parents said that after Children First Montessori on Park Avenue closed last year, they didn’t know where to take their kids in town and give them the same learning environment. Children First parents even tried to get a Montessori started on their own.

“The big thing that I love about the Montessori program is the learning style,” said Daniel Bell, a Bremerton resident who registered his son Ryan at Naval Avenue Tuesday morning.

Bell was one of the former Children First parents who advocated a new public program. Both of his children - Ryan, 5, and Sara, 4 - currently attend Advantage Montessori School.

“My son and daughter both flourish under the Montessori program,” he said, noting the more independent learning environment of the schools.

Sheila Jernigan also registered her daughter, five-year-old Faith, at the Naval Avenue Montessori on Tuesday. Like Bell, she lobbied for a public Montessori after Children First’s closure.

“It just gives them a better learning environment because they get to learn at their own pace,” Jernigan said, adding that she has noticed progress. “What she does at home just seems to be much more advanced than what I would expect.”

As of Tuesday, 10 students were registered for the new Montessori program. School district staff expect there to be a full 25-student class in the fall with a wait list. Bremerton School District residents receive first priority.

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