Montessori meetings set for public in Georgetown County

A group seeking to start a charter Montessori school in Georgetown County is taking the next step in the process: finding out how many students it can expect.

The Coastal Montessori Charter School planning committee will hold the first of four public informational meetings on Saturday.

The meetings will give answers to some of the questions parents might have about the school, from what Montessori education is like to how a charter school works.

But at the end of those meetings, the parents will have one remaining question: Would this school be a good fit for my child?

"We want anybody who comes to the meeting to leave with a better knowledge of what public Montessori is," said Kristin Bohan, the planning committee chairperson. "We want parents to ask themselves, 'Would my child thrive in this environment?' so parents can really know what they're involved in."

At the meetings, interested parents will be asked to fill out a letter of interest. The letter is not an enrollment form but asks parents if they would likely enroll their child in the school if opened.

Bohan said the number of those letters the committee gets is crucial for the planning of the school and for the school's ability to earn approval from the S.C. Department of Education and the Georgetown County School District.

"The more of those letters we get signed, the better our chances of being approved," she said. "They're a concrete testimony of the support of the community."

Aside from helping with the approval process, Bohan said the school wants to be able to meet the demand of the community.

If a charter school has more students who want to enroll than it can handle, a lottery is conducted to decide which students are admitted, and "we would like to avoid a lottery," Bohan said.

If approved, the school would be open for grades one through six in August 2012.

Bohan said the committee is working with a group of investors to purchase land to build a school on, but the first year of the school would be in a temporary space.

She said the group is also to begin the search for someone to be head of the school so that if the school is approved in August, that person can begin work right away, hiring teachers, ordering materials and more.

But first, the committee has to gauge the level of community interest and determine basic needs, such as the number of teachers the school will need.

The meetings will be held from 1 to 3 p.m., but Bohan said people are encouraged to stop by for as long as they can. She said there will be booths where people can talk to Montessori teachers and others who can explain the charter school concept.

"Montessori is for everybody," Bohan said. "We want everybody in the community to know that they're welcome, and we want them."