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April 12, 2013
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School board commits to EL conversion cost

CARBONDALE, Colorado - The Roaring Fork School District Re-1 board stands committed to funding the proposed Expeditionary Learning model at Glenwood Springs Elementary School, should the school conversion ultimately be approved.

The school board, meeting in Carbondale Wednesday, voted unanimously in favor of a formal statement of support for the estimated five-year, $300,000 cost to implement the EL conversion.

School and district officials continue working with the EL Schools organization, which is expected to decide by April 23 whether to formally partner with GSES starting next school year.

EL Schools require support from 80 percent of the teachers and support staff at a candidate school before taking on a conversion.

Online surveys at GSES were to begin Thursday to allow teachers and staff to weigh in on the proposed conversion up until the middle of next week.

The expeditionary model is used in more than 160 converted traditional schools and charter EL schools across the country.

EL emphasizes in-depth, project-based learning using "expeditions" both in and outside the classroom, including field studies, outdoor experience trips, community or civic projects, all focused on "real-life problem-solving," Jonathan Mann, the regional director for EL Schools, said during a series of recent community meetings to explain the concept.

Re-1 Superintendent Diana Sirko said the board's commitment to the financial piece, especially in advance of the surveys and a formal decision by EL Schools, is important.

"There have been some concerns expressed about whether there would be a commitment for five years of funding," Sirko said. "This [statement] is a way to help allay those fears."

According to a cost breakdown provided by Shannon Pelland, the district's assistant superintendent of business services, the total anticipated cost to do the conversion would be about $300,000 over five years.

That would include the cost to hire an EL school designer to work with the school's staff, plus instructional materials, teacher and staff development and associated travel costs to attend training, she said.

"The district has sufficient reserves to cover this cost, due in part to higher than anticipated funding resulting from enrollment growth over the past couple of years," Pelland wrote in a memo to the school board.

Following the initial implementation, it would cost the district about $23,000 per year to continue with the EL program at GSES, including membership fees and ongoing staff development, she said.

The school board began exploring the potential for an EL conversion at GSES late last year, after rejecting the proposed Two Rivers Expeditionary School charter application. That proposal called for a separate, 190-student kindergarten-through-eighth-grade charter school in Glenwood Springs using the EL model.

Instead, the school board wanted to explore a conversion of the existing 565-student, K-6 GSES to an EL school.

Charter school proponents have renewed their application for TRES with the Colorado Charter School Institute (see related story).

Last year, TRES applied both with the state and the Re-1 school district. The application was turned down by both entities, but proponents were encouraged to refine the proposal and re-apply this year.">class="NormalParagraphStyle">

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The Post Independent Updated Apr 12, 2013 01:07AM Published Apr 12, 2013 01:06AM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.