In addition to reading and math, something being learned at Murray-LaSaine Elementary School could be called Flexibility 101: If the school isn’t meeting the needs of the families it is supposed to serve, it’s time to think about changing.
Another lesson: Listen to what the school community — and the greater community — have to say. Good ideas don’t come just from textbooks.
Indeed, a group of neighborhood parents in 2008 approached the district to suggest making struggling Murray-LaSaine a partial magnet school, perhaps with a focus on Montessori instruction.
The idea was rejected. But in the past five years, enrollment has steadily declined at James Island’s most poorly performing — and now smallest — elementary school.
Wisely, the district is listening now. The school put together a neighborhood planning team of parents, staff and community members. Its recommendation? Murray-LaSaine should have a Montessori focus.
The planning team made a presentation to the Charleston County School Board, and district leaders have indicated support.
That doesn’t guarantee it will happen. The district hasn’t yet determined costs or a time line. And there are options — partial Montessori or altogether Montessori, for example. The board hasn’t voted.
Instructors need special training to teach Montessori classes, which encourage students to work independently. Teachers do more individual instruction. Students use special materials designed to hone certain skills and enhance learning.
Would things be better now if the community group had gotten its way in 2008 and Murray-LaSaine had become a partial magnet?
Maybe. Maybe not. But certainly it is time to consider seriously the school’s request before it undergoes a major renovation. Montessori classes have different space requirements from traditional classes.
Without serious changes, there is little reason to hope that Murray-LaSaine will reverse its enrollment decline. And small schools are on the hot seat. The district is assessing them to determine if they are financially justifiable, and if they aren’t, what can be done to turn things around.
It is encouraging that the district has not just accepted but stated as one of its goals to offer all students educational choices.
That’s the right thing to do for students like those who attend Murray-LaSaine — or any other school.