There are three Montessori classrooms at Smith, Central, and Broadwater schools, for a total of nine classrooms serving up to 192 students. Montessori classrooms differ from traditional classrooms in the following respects:
Students have the opportunity to mentor their peers, thereby reinforcing learning concepts. Parent and caregiver volunteers are encouraged to contribute in the classroom to offer the support needed to facilitate the individualization of work.
In our district, decisions about Montessori are best made in terms of what fits each family’s needs. Montessori is not available at all neighborhood schools, so a child might have to travel outside his/her neighborhood to attend. When choosing Montessori, parents should be comfortable with the idea of their children using hands-on learning materials and learning methods different from those that they may have experienced in elementary school. Finally, parent participation is strongly encouraged as a key to student success.
Every child in the Helena school district is eligible for the lottery at the end of kindergarten. There may be up to 42 guaranteed openings for rising 1st graders who enter the annual lottery. Vacancies in 2nd and 3rd grades are filled from the waiting list for their lottery year. Placements may be made in the 4th or 5th grade, upon administrative approval.
The district funds classrooms at the same level as all other classrooms—salaries and benefits and overhead for those nine classes comes from the general operating budget. Helena Public Montessori Parents (HPMP) provides funding for scholarships for specialized Montessori continuing education, as well as for some Montessori classroom materials.