After a show of parent support at a previous meeting, the Wauwatosa School Board approved Aug. 11 the expansion of Montessori School to seventh and eighth grade.
Montessori Principal Bill Anderson said the school will open the lottery for seats in seventh grade in February, with about 20-25 students enrolling for the 2015-16 school-year. Eighth-graders will be welcomed the next year.
Anderson said he expects about seven of this year's sixth-graders to return for seventh grade at the school, and hopes to attract more families looking for an alternative middle school experience.
"The older adolescent time is a very crazy time for students," Anderson said. "Maria Montessori understood that students begin to regress as they get into that period, so by providing a safe environment where students can feel they have more connection with adults and peers, we want to establish a place they can really feel like home."
Superintendent Phil Ertl expects the new seventh grade section to cost about $164,000. Some of those costs will not be new, as staff will be shifted from traditional middle school to Montessori.
The financial success of the program will depend on whether it can retain and recruit families who without it would choose private school or another district. Ertl said if the district is able to attract three new students to the district, the new revenue will offset the additional costs for the Montessori middle grades, like those for art and physical education.
"There's some risk associated with it," Ertl said at the school board meeting. "We're not going to hide the fact we want to attract our resident non-attending students into our district. In this case Mr. Anderson is going to be knocking on houses inviting them to come in."
Anderson said the school hopes to collaborate with Whitman Middle School to allow Montessori students to participate in clubs and athletics at that school.
The Montessori School has more than doubled since it opened with 63 students in the fall of 2011. With the expansion in 2015, it plans to serve 173 students.
Throughout its growth, the school has remained in the lower level of the Fischer Building, 12121 W. North Ave., which will also accommodate the intermediate grades.
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