The Montessori School, in the last year of its lease at Monatiquot, may put in a bid to lease Eldridge for 10 years, which could free up the larger Monatiquot School for use by elementary students, Superintendent Dr. Peter Kurzberg said earlier this week.
"We are bursting at the seams in terms of our elementary schools," Dr. Kurzberg told the School Committee on Monday.
Meeting House Montessori – serving children ages 2.9 years to 12 years – has been leasing part of Monatiquot for a number of years, but has also been looking for a long-term lease, Dr. Kurzberg said. A year ago the school department sought bidders for a shorter, three- or five-year contract, but had no takers.
"I'm hopeful that the Montessori people will be interested [in 10 years]. Maybe at a lower rate than we're getting now," Business Manager Peter Kress said. "It made no sense for them to go three years."
Monatiquot, which closed along with Eldridge in 2004, has 12 classrooms. Eldridge has five and a media center. Dr. Kurzberg said Eldridge would likely fit Montessori's needs, though he said the department and school were not yet at the stage to talk specific proposals. Other organizations will also be able to bid for the space at Eldridge.
Educators at Braintree's elementary schools have increasingly turned to unconventional spaces such as closets, hallways and gymnasiums recently because of additional students, an issue that town and school officials have been discussing for some time. Neither Liberty nor Ross schools have a library, for example, and none have a dedicated music or art room.
By 2019, enrollment in Braintree's K-5 schools is expected to reach 2,672, up from 2,474 as of last November, according to the New England School Development Council. A significant portion of that growth will be at the kindergarten level – from 341 now to 372 by 2014.
"This is a great move to free up some space," Committee Chair Shannon Hume said.
Pam Kiley, a longtime proponent of full-day kindergarten and of using Monatiquot as a kindergarten center, said the potential switch by Montessori would be a positive step for the elementary level.
It could provide important short-term relief for the overcrowding problem, Mayor Joseph Sullivan added, as the town continues a comprehensive examination of how to expand class space long-term.