School plans have parents divided

Some parents are upset over future plans for Garden Oaks Elementary

April 2, 2010 2:55:33 PM PDT
There's a bit of a fight brewing over the fate of Garden Oaks Elementary. It's one of the schools that officials with the Houston Independent School District are considering turning into a standalone Montessori school. Right now parents with children at Garden Oaks Elementary can choose traditional classes or a Montessori program. If this federal grant goes through, that would not be the case and it's tearing this community apart.

Parent CeCe Krumholz said, "I wish this had never happened, quite honestly."

Krumholz has two boys. Both go to Garden Oaks Elementary and both are enrolled in a traditional school program. Now the school yard has become an uncomfortable place for parents.

"The people that were your friends don't even say hi to you anymore," Krumholz said. "They purposely look the other way. It's horrible."

The crux of the controversy HISD's plan to transform garden oaks into a standalone Montessori school.

"It is an opportunity for very independent learning," said Shana Tatum with Friends of Montessori. "The curriculum addresses the whole child."

Montessori education is simply student-driven learning. It's also more hands-on and conducted in smaller settings.

Parent Chad Modad said, "I want a Montessori program in my neighborhood."

Modad's two children are enrolled in Garden Oak's Montessori program -- one he says has helped his children thrive.

"One of our children is very interested in reading and he's a phenomenal reader. They allow him to focus on that," Modad said.

By converting Garden Oaks into an all-out Montessori school, Garden Oaks would phase out traditional schooling over time. Which means some new students at Garden Oaks would come from across Houston, but not necessarily from this neighborhood.

It all comes down to a parent's philosophy on how they want their children to learn. But it's pitting neighbors against each other and forcing some, like CeCe Krumholz to search for other options, including home school.

"I'm kind of so angry this has happened to our school, I'd rather not give HISD our money," she said.


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