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November 27, 2012
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Charter school group to proceed with Re-1

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - A group of parents who want to start a new public charter school in Glenwood Springs will withdraw their application from the state chartering authority, but hope to proceed in making their case to the Roaring Fork School District.

Proponents of the Two Rivers Expeditionary School (TRES) were to hear today from the Colorado Charter School Institute board on whether it would uphold a staff recommendation to deny TRES' application to become a state charter school.

TRES is instead asking state charter officials to formally accept a request to withdraw its application, said Debra Winston, interim head of school for the proposed charter.

Rather, the group wants to focus its efforts on convincing the Roaring Fork Re-1 school board to accept TRES as a district charter school starting next year.

"We still believe we could be in place for [fall] 2013, and are willing to partner with the district to do anything we can to make that happen," Winston said.

The charter school's organizing board was to meet Monday night to refine its proposal to the Re-1 board and administration.

The school board meets at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Re-1 District Office in Glenwood Springs to continue its consideration of the charter request. However, the board is not expected to decide on the application until its Dec. 12 meeting.

At a Nov. 14 school board meeting, a majority of board members said they were inclined to reject the charter school in favor of exploring the possible conversion of an existing school, likely Glenwood Springs Elementary School, to an official Expeditionary Learning (EL) school.

But Winston said many parents who have been involved in putting together the charter proposal in recent years still believe an enrollment-capped, kindergarten-through-eighth-grade charter school is the way to go.

"A small, K-8 school of choice in Glenwood Springs is still the ultimate desire of this group," Winston said.

"This is an opportunity to offer a model in providing that choice," she said. "It's the responsibility of the school board as elected officials to uphold the state [charter school] statute and help provide innovations in education."

TRES proponents jointly applied this fall to become a charter school under either the state or the Re-1 school district.

The school is proposed to open in fall 2013, initially with 146 students in grades kindergarten through sixth, and draw primarily from Glenwood Springs to Rifle. It is proposed to expand after two years to a full K-8 school with 190 students.

The charter group has been looking for potential school sites in either West Glenwood or the downtown Glenwood Springs area.

Earlier this month, Charter Institute staff recommended denial of TRES' state application, citing deficiencies in the proposal related to achieving pupil performance standards and conducting student evaluations. The recommendation also cited concerns about the school's proposed budget, governance and the lack of a specific school location.

Re-1 officials have expressed similar concerns with the charter application, as well as the lack of school lunch and student transportation to and from school in the plan.

"All of those are fine details we feel like we can work on," Winston said.

Some board members, as well as members of the public who spoke at the Nov. 14 meeting, also expressed concerns about whether the school could achieve a similarly diverse ethnic and socio-economic mix of students as in existing Re-1 schools.

Winston said the charter group is working to educate the local Latino community about the proposed charter school and the expeditionary learning approach. She said the school would like to attract about 50 percent of its students from Latino families.

The Re-1 school district, which includes Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt, has a Latino student enrollment of approximately 52 percent. Some individual schools have a much higher Latino student population.

jstroud@postindependent.com


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The Post Independent Updated Nov 27, 2012 01:11AM Published Nov 27, 2012 01:10AM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.