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Montessori headed to Colvill?

In 2009, Red Wing School Board members decided to house River Bend Montessori at Jefferson School instead of Colvill Family Center, where space was considered too limited.

But what's old is new again, in a proposal by River Bend Montessori Advisory Board members to relocate the pilot program to Colvill Family Center.

Under a proposal outlined Monday to Red Wing School Board members, the entire Montessori program would be moved to Colvill, where supporters of the plan said it would be more at home, given the center's preschool programs.

"This certainly fits better philosophically, as far as partnering with those other facilities at Colvill," School Board Chairwoman Heidi Jones said Tuesday.

Supporters of the move say that -- in addition to the preschool connection -- it will likely be a cost saver for the district and the Jones Family Foundation, which provided seed money for River Bend, in addition to ongoing tuition aid.

"We certainly expect it would be more cost effective," Jones said.

Supt. Stan Slessor said the program looks to save money by utilizing Colvill's established custodial and secretarial services.

He said that by putting the program in Colvill -- which is owned by the district -- the foundation would no longer have to pay lease fees, like it does at Jefferson.

The district owns Jefferson and rents out space to Goodhue County Education District. When River Bend moved to the building, however, it displaced some GCED services and, subsequently, a portion of the rent. Consequently, River Bend pays rent to GCED to cover those costs.

Slessor said those costs would go away if Montessori is housed at Colvill, which the district owns.

"I would like to see the program succeed," School Board member Mike Christensen said after the meeting. "I think it's got great potential. Colvill is the right place for it."

The board did not take action Monday on the proposal, but is expected to at its Dec. 20 meeting.

If the proposal is to take off, however, it must clear some hurdles. Space remains an issue at Colvill, which also houses Adult Basic Education and the Women, Infants and Children programs.

Slessor discussed the possibility of ABE relocating to Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical's Red Wing campus.

WIC most likely will be moved out of the facility, said Goodhue County Public Health Director Karen Main. When and where the program will move is up in the air, however.

"It's a priority," Main said.

Board members made it clear at the meeting, however, the intention was not for Montessori to muscle other the programs out of the building.

"We do not want to displace anybody," School Board member Dennis Porter said.

Jones said there are no other location-related plans for the second-year program beyond moving it to Colvill. She said keeping the program at Jefferson next year "hasn't even been discussed."

"Right now there's no Plan B," Jones said. "This is it."

One thing that won't be part of the Montessori program - at least not in the immediate future - will be a kindergarten option. Slessor said complications between teacher licensing and incorporating state funding into the public-private program mean it will likely remain a preschool program for now.

Still, "there is always the potential," he said.