Roaring Fork school board updated on charter school negotiations

Darian Armer
Special to the Post Independent

Roaring Fork School District Superintendent Rob Stein updated school board members on charter school negotiations at the Feb. 9 regular meeting.

After approving Two Rivers Community School application for district authorization on Jan. 12, the district has 90 days or until an agreed-upon date to finalize the contract. In keeping with that schedule, the board would take action on the application March 16, so the school and district staff can work together on transition planning this spring.

At the same time, the Carbondale Community School charter contract was negotiated in 2017 and will be up for renewal next school year. To ensure alignment between the two charter contracts, Carbondale Community School is submitting a renewal application this year.

There are a couple negotiation points Stein updated the board about. The first negotiation point was demographics. The contract with Two Rivers Community School will include language requiring that Two Rivers have enrollment policies in place so that student demographics reflect district demographics. The current Carbondale Community School enrollment policy includes a process for actively recruiting and providing priority enrollment for students whose primary home language is other than English — or PHLOTE.

Stein said the district will use this policy as the basis for enrollment policies in both schools, meaning Two Rivers will modify its weighted lottery to increase enrollment for PHLOTE students over time.

Along the same lines, the board has also requested that Tow Rivers prioritize the enrollment of students who live within the Roaring Fork School’s attendance boundary. Two Rivers currently serves students living in both Roaring Fork Re-1 and Garfield Re-2. The school will establish a weighted lottery system to provide increased priority for in-district students.

Specific to Carbondale Community School, the charter has requested an increase in its maximum student enrollment by two students per grade level. It currently can have 15 students per grade level, for a total of 135 students. Stein informed the board that the current enrollment number policy was financially inefficient and an unsustainable business model.

“It doesn’t make a huge impact on us, but it better enables them to be sustainable,” Stein told the board.

Another point in the charter school negotiations is proportional inclusion in existing and future district housing. Both community schools struggle with the same staff retention and recruitment challenges as the district.

With the passing of the mill levy and the use of some of those funds for staff retention, employee housing has become a big draw. As existing and future district housing is funded by taxpayer-approved bonds, charter school employees would like to be included in employee housing.

Stein went on to say that charter school participation in the staff housing program will begin with the development of new units (targeted for fall 2023). At that point, charter schools will have access to a proportion of the total units based on student enrollment, without reducing the number of units that are available to district staff members. Currently, charter schools in the district make up about 8% of district enrollment, so charter school employees would be eligible for that proportion of staff housing units.

Lastly, additional agreements are being worked out between the district and charter school staff regarding support for instruction, special education, school meals, transportation, student information systems and data sharing.

The board of education is slated to take action on the charter school contracts March 16.

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