A unexpected snag in securing a lease means the Garden Montessori Charter School will delay its opening date by at least a year.
The school for students in kindergarten through sixth grade was scheduled to open on Aug. 24 at the Sports and Field Complex, off State Road 56 in Wesley Chapel.
“The difficult decision, made by its Board of Directors, was based on a breakdown in the final negotiations of the lease contract,” according to a statement released by Garden Montessori’s board. “The deciding factors to delay the opening of the school year were based on the need to ensure the future success of the school, faculty and most importantly the children.”
Garden Montessori is one of two Pasco County schools awarded charters for 2015-2016. The other is Plato Academy, which started in Pinellas County, and is in an expansion mode. Its eighth location would have been in Pasco, but district school officials said that also is being delayed.
Darlene Pla-Schantz, Garden Montessori’s associate education director, said the school had enrolled 196 students for 2015-2016.
She said school and district officials are working to answer parents’ questions and help with a smooth start for those students affected by the delay.
The school district had not received Garden Montessori’s enrollment list for the upcoming school term, said Linda Cobbe, Pasco school district’s spokeswoman. So she said the district routinely had assigned all but one of those students to schools in zones where they would have gone last year.
Any placement changes will have to wait until the 20-day enrollment count after the district’s Aug. 24 opening day. “We don’t know where we’ll have seats,” Cobbe said.
The district office has fielded a few calls from parents.
“This is pretty last minute, especially for parents of kindergartners,” Cobbe said. “This is all new to them.”
Garden Montessori’s board has sent a letter to the Pasco school district requesting approval for a “planning year” in 2015-2016. The school board will vote on the request at an upcoming board meeting on a date to be determined.
The school’s charter is in effect for five years, including the requested planning year.
Garden Montessori began in 2009 as a private preschool and kindergarten academy, teaching with the Montessori method. The charter delay doesn’t affect that school’s operations.
One of the Montessori features is a multi-age classroom where students have the same teacher for three years.
Parents had urged the board to pursue a charter so their children could extend their Montessori experience.
The approved charter is for a tuition-free, public kindergarten through sixth grade school. The opening year allowed for up to 270 students. The board planned to begin with kindergarten through second grade, adding a grade each year until the fifth year when enrollment would increase to 540 students.
“This time will be used to define, develop and execute a strategic plan for the immediate and future needs of the community,” according to the statement from Garden Montessori’s board.
Published August 5, 2015