MISD shutters Montessori class for 4th, 5th and 6th grades 

MARFA — Following the exit of a fifth and sixth grade math and science teacher and a fifth and sixth grade English language arts teacher, MISD is shuttering Montessori for grades four through six, citing low enrollment numbers.

Known for its emphasis on independence and often utilizing mixed-age classrooms and specially trained teachers, the Montessori method of education has made it into the classrooms of private and public schools across the U.S. and the world.

MISD originally adopted the Montessori program in 2013, as an early education program for children aged three through kindergarten. The program was expanded through the 6th grade in 2015, creating programs for pre-K through kindergarten in the 2014 – 2015 school year, first grade to third grade in the 2015 – 2016 school year, and fourth through sixth grade in the 2016 – 2017 school year.

Cheri Aguero is certified in Montessori education and taught for nine years prior to her arrival at MISD and until the recent exit of MISD’s math and science teacher, she was teaching Montessori to the group of fourth, fifth and sixth graders.

With 52 percent of the incoming fifth grade class failing the math section of the STARR test last year, Superintendent Oscar Aguero is eliminating Montessori for grades four through six so that Mrs. Aguero can teach general fifth and sixth grade math and science. The school has yet to come to a decision on whether they’re continuing the education method for grades one to three, which will depend on enrollment.

“Based on STARR data and just meeting with the teachers and following this group of primarily [incoming] 5th graders — they’re behind, and COVID didn’t help,” said Superintendent Aguero. “We needed a strong teacher. We couldn’t just put anybody in that position.”

In their search for a replacement who could fill the void, Superintendent Aguero said the school only received a few applicants, most of which came from a background teaching kindergarten which was not enough to satisfy middle school students’ educational needs. However, the superintendent told The Big Bend Sentinel that the school would consider bringing the class back if they are able to find a replacement.

The other reason for doing away with Montessori for grades four through six, Aguero said, was that the class itself was “very minimal,” with only five students (two sixth graders and three fourth graders) enrolled prior to its elimination last week.

“We just don’t have the numbers to support the Montessori class,” said Aguero, adding that there’s a total of 12 incoming sixth graders — only two of which were in the Montessori class.

The school is having an in-person enrollment event on Thursday, where parents will also be able to meet teachers in the afternoon. Registration is online, but parents struggling with online registration can visit the school anytime, where office personnel can help them fill out the application.

“We’re looking to see how many students are in the class again,” said Aguero, regarding the fate of Montessori one to three. “We know not only do we have to do the academic side; we also have to be fiscally responsible with our money.”

Once enrollment and registration are complete, MISD will have enough information to determine whether or not they will continue with the Montessori class for first through third grade. The program will continue for three-year-olds through kindergarten.