GREAT FALLS — The 2023 Montana Legislature passed two new laws regarding charter schools in Montana. One of those is tied up in court. But the other, a product of House Bill 549, gives school districts the go ahead to set up charter schools.
The Great Falls Public School District is moving ahead with plans for creating a school that will help address a teacher shortage.
The district has chosen Morningside Elementary School (4119 Seventh Avenue North) as the site for the new venture.
District leaders say the program will play a pivotal role in shaping the future of education.
Teaming up with University of Montana-Western, the CORE Charter School will be a public school where classroom teachers are also college instructors.
Jackie Mainwaring is the GFPS Director for Student Achievement. She said there were couple factors that played into the Morningside decision.
“Number one was physical space of the building,” said Mainwaring. “Another was student enrollment. So, Morningside has room for us to accept more students over there through our lottery process to continue to grow that that school's populations.”
Mainwaring says the building also offers opportunity when looking ahead.
“Looking toward the future, the space that the building is actually on, does it provide an opportunity for expansion in the future, should that need to happen,” said Mainwaring.
To address questions and share information, the district will host informational sessions for Morningside families on November 7th at 6:30 p.m. and November 14th at 5:30 p.m.
Informational sessions will be held early next year for families who live outside the Morningside attendance area who are considering enrollment in the CORE School next academic year.
The district says the program is a win for all involved and can help with a teacher shortage while growing high quality teachers who stay in the profession long term.
“This offers us an opportunity to provide excellent instruction for our college aged students and to help them obtain a teaching degree in a shorter amount of time, through our partnership with Western and Great Falls College-MSU, onsite,” said Mainwaring. “And it's an immersive experience. So, it really is kind of a learning exchange is how we're characterizing it. Our littles are learning from our bigs and our bigs are learning from our littles.”
While student teaching remains a vital part of education, the program at Morningside will give students, or “big learners” valuable hands-on experience throughout the building from day one.
“They'll learn how to do things like diffuse conflict on the playground, diffuse conflict in the lunchroom, hallway behavior, all of those soft skills they'll learn, which is a part of student teaching that we often miss because student teaching is for a very short amount of time traditionally,” said Heather Hoyer, also an Executive Director for Student Achievement at Great Falls Public Schools. “Then we’ll bring them in and have them work side by side with a master teacher for an entire year for their whole student teaching experience. So, it’s actually much more comprehensive than students have now.”
For more information, including videos, FAQs, and a board presentation, click here to visit the GFPS website.