Expeditionary school proponents renew charter push
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Proponents of the Two Rivers Expeditionary School (TRES) have reapplied with the Colorado Charter School Institute to open a new charter school in Glenwood Springs that would serve students in grades K-8 from Glenwood Springs to Rifle.
This time around, though, the group also plans to apply with the Roaring Fork School District Re-1 to consider operating under the local school district’s umbrella, rather than the state.
“If we can make our case clearly enough to the [Re-1] school board, bottom line, that would be best for the kids,” said Debra Winston, the interim head of school who has been tabbed to help lead the TRES effort.
If the state charter is approved, TRES could still go that route instead, she said.
School proponents are scheduled to give a presentation to Re-1 officials during the school board’s next regular meeting, at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26, at the District Office in Glenwood Springs.
The interim TRES board will also meet tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 1630 Grand Ave., to refine its proposal. Winston said anyone who is interested in learning more about TRES may attend.
Charter proponents include parents, teachers and other community members from both the Re-1 and Garfield Re-2 school districts.
The group has submitted an application to the Charter School Institute (CSI) for a second straight year, following an initial attempt in 2011. TRES withdrew the request last November, before a decision was made by state officials, so it could iron out some details.
“We wanted to make sure we had a thorough understanding of state performance measures, AYP [adequate yearly progress], and an educational plan that was research-based and encouraged our vision of community involvement,” according to the new CSI application, which was submitted Aug. 22.
“Working with the community of parents, educators and community members, we aim to create a school that is based on the expeditionary learning [EL] model, a nationally recognized model for schools,” according to the application.
The EL model emphasizes learning outside the classroom, with a focus on outdoor education, the arts, community projects and civic engagement.
“By using the surrounding community as our classroom, our children’s unique learning skill sets will be honored, and they will learn the importance of being valuable community citizens,” the application states.
Proponents are working to identify a location for the school, with an eye toward the West Glenwood area, Winston said.
About a third of the nearly 80 pre-enrollment forms that have been received are from families in the Re-2 communities, she said.
TRES is proposed to open for the 2013-14 school year with 146 students in grades kindergarten to sixth grade to start. It would expand to 190 students with the addition of seventh and eighth grades in the two subsequent years.
Two other charter schools already operate with the Re-1 school district, but both are in Carbondale. The Carbondale Community School operates as a district charter, while Ross Montessori School is chartered under the state. Both schools are full with wait lists, the TRES application points out.
Re-1 formally opposed the TRES application to the state last year, citing impacts on district school enrollment. The Re-1 board, at a meeting in Carbondale last week, indicated it was open to considering the proposal.
“There could be some implications not only for Glenwood, but for Carbondale schools,” school board President Matt Hamilton said. “There is also the potential for relieving some of our enrollment pressures … so there are some minuses and some pluses that we should be looking at.”
School board member Daniel Biggs said the expeditionary approach can already be found in some Re-1 schools.
“Many of their driving principles are things that I’ve seen in some of our schools already,” Biggs said. “We need to do a better job in our district and in our schools of telling that story.”
Winston said the TRES group is also open to possible alternatives, such as establishing a magnet school that could adopt the expeditionary model.
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