LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Clarification: The George Washington Elementary School “Children’s House” and Class Size.

To The Daily Freeman:

LETTER TO THE EDITOR:  Clarification: The George Washington Elementary School “Children’s House” and Class Size.

We’d like to take this opportunity to clarify an item that was in the paper today written by William J. Kemble in his article “Average Elementary School Class Sizes in Kingston District range from 17.7 to 28.8“.

The George Washington Elementary School in Midtown Kingston is a public Montessori Program in our city that serves a large population of children who live below the poverty line, including many English Language Learners and students with special needs. It’s a beautifully diverse school that our parent community is all very proud of and grateful for.

We noticed a statistic reported in your story this morning regarding our Kindergarten class size averaging 13 children, which is in fact incorrect. It’s an easy mistake to make, however, given the unique way that our school functions.

To best understand the class sizes at George Washington, one must understand the manner in which children are grouped.  An aspect of the Montessori Classroom is its multi-age groupings, composed of students whose ages typically span three years. Ideally, children stay with the class and teacher for the entire cycle, forging a stable community with meaningful bonds.

In 2008, the first phase of the new Montessori Program at the GW Elementary School was implemented. Known as “The Children’s House”, it is the bedrock of our program. Back then, it worked perfectly and as the Montessori program intends with three, four and five year olds (our Kindergartners) all happily working together in the same classroom.  Since the elimination of the three-year-old program in Kingston – which we would like to bring back – “The Children’s House” has included four general education classrooms, each comprised of children in the Universal Pre-kindergarten Program (four year olds) and kindergartners.  Each Children’s House class currently contains either 29 or 30 students.

The number of children in a class may seem high to those who do not understand how the Montessori method works, but in fact with the proper support, the structure of a Montessori classroom can easily accommodate that number of students. A key component to the success of a Montessori program lies within the Montessori model, which includes one teacher (or ‘guide’ as is known in Montessori) and a teacher’s assistant.  All of the classroom teachers at George Washington and many of the teaching assistants have completed one and a half to three years of specialized Montessori training, in addition to the New York state certification requirements. At this time, while our class sizes are high, our school functions beautifully with this model.

We would like to take the opportunity to thank the district for their support, and invite the public to visit our school this fall. Our fourth graders host weekly tours on Tuesdays  – which we expect will begin in the coming weeks.

Thank you.

The GW Elementary School PTO 

Rebecca Martin-Grenadier

Lori Joseph