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April 12, 2013
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Charter school proponents renew push with state

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - Proponents of a limited-enrollment, expeditionary learning-based charter school in Glenwood Springs have renewed their application with the state's chartering authority.

Under the new proposal, submitted March 19 to the Colorado Charter School Institute, the Two Rivers Expeditionary School (TRES) would open for the 2014-15 school year with 151 students in grades kindergarten through sixth, at an as-yet undetermined location in Glenwood Springs.

It proposes to partner with EL Schools, the same national organization the Roaring Fork School District is now working with to possibly convert Glenwood Springs Elementary School to an official EL school.

The Charter School Institute (CSI), which operates under the Colorado Department of Education, has an earlier cycle this year for considering new charter school applications.

The CSI previously took applications in August and reviewed them during the fall before making a decision in late November. The new process begins in March, with a decision to approve or deny new charter applications coming in late June.

"This gives us a full year to get things in order after we receive our approval," said Jenifer Cramer, a Glenwood Springs resident and parent who is helping to lead the renewed charter push.

"It really helps to give new charter schools a better chance to get geared up and get off the ground," she said.

The local charter group has been working to revise its proposal, after being turned down last fall by both the CSI and the Roaring Fork Re-1 school board.

TRES applied jointly last year with both the state and the local school district, in hopes of earning approval from one or both entities, then choosing which one to go with.

Both entities left the door open for TRES to re-apply this year. However, by statute, school districts cannot accept charter applications until August.

"We have put a lot of work into addressing the concerns that came up with the previous application," Cramer said.

While the charter group supports the school district's effort to explore an EL conversion at GSES, what makes the proposed charter school unique is its small size, she said.

As proposed, TRES would open with 151 students in grades K-6 in the first year. It would expand by 2018 to 225 students, adding seventh and eighth grades.

The school would use a multi-age, looping class structure in which a teacher stays with the same group of students for two years.

In addition, TRES would focus on providing second-language acquisition for all students.

Cramer said a particular effort is already being made to reach out to Latino families within the target attendance area, which includes parts of both the Roaring Fork and Garfield Re-2 school districts.

According to an executive summary included with the school's application, "Students enrolled at TRES will be representative of the community in which we live.

"Upon opening, approximately 30 percent of the TRES student body will qualify for English Language Learner (ELL) services, and approximately 40 percent will qualify for free and reduced lunch," according to the summary statement. "Those numbers will reach approximately 50 percent by the end of year three."

One of the Re-1 school board's concerns in denying the TRES proposal last year was that it could end up being a "white flight" school, attracting students from mostly affluent, Anglo families rather than being representative of the larger school district.

Approximately 52 percent of students in the larger Re-1 school district, which includes Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt, are Latino. Within that group, a large percentage are ELL students, especially at the elementary and middle school levels.

jstroud@postindependent.com


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The Post Independent Updated Apr 12, 2013 01:14AM Published Apr 12, 2013 01:13AM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.