State board approves Glenwood Springs charter school
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Not one, but two expeditionary learning model schools are on track to serve primary-age students in Glenwood Springs within the next two years.
The Colorado Charter School Institute Board of Directors, meeting in Denver on Tuesday, unanimously approved the formation of the Two Rivers Expeditionary School (TRES).
The independent, tuition-free school is set to open as a public charter school under the Institute in the fall of 2014, at a location still to be determined.
Ideally, the new school would like to have a building of approximately 13,000 square feet, either in downtown Glenwood Springs or West Glenwood, with room to expand up to 18,000 square feet as the school grows, TRES board member Jenifer Cramer of Glenwood Springs said.
If all goes as planned, TRES will be the second expeditionary-based school locally, following the Roaring Fork District Re-1 school board’s decision earlier this year to convert Glenwood Springs Elementary School to an official Expeditionary Learning school in partnership with the national EL Schools organization.
Conversion of the K-5 district school, which had an enrollment of more 560 students this past school year, will begin with the coming 2013-14 school year.
TRES proponents, including a mix of parents, teachers and others from both the Re-1 and Garfield Re-2 school districts, have also has been in discussions with EL Schools.
They too will be seeking to enter into a formal contract with the organization to provide staff training and curriculum development.
The new charter school will initially enroll up to 151 students in kindergarten through sixth grades, with plans to expand to 225 students as seventh and eighth grades are added in subsequent years.
“We are overjoyed with CSI’s decision to take the next step with us, and we are eager to begin the process of starting up the school.” Cramer said of the successful third attempt to gain charter approval.
The school was rejected by state chartering officials in the fall of 2011, and was again turned down last fall when a dual application was submitted to both the state and the Roaring Fork School District.
It was through the charter discussions with the district last fall that the Re-1 board decided to pursue an EL school conversion at GSES. But the school board declined to take on TRES as a district charter school.
“Certainly, we have a lot of things to work on before we can open,” Cramer said.
Included among the conditions of approval for the new school is a requirement that a head of school be selected by early next year to oversee start-up prior to opening for the 2014-15 school year.
“We do have some candidates in mind, but we will do a full national search,” Cramer said. “We do hope to have someone identified by the end of the summer, but we do have some leeway into the fall.”
The charter approval is also contingent on TRES entering into a partnership with EL Schools, or “something comparable,” CSI Executive Director Ethan Hemming clarified.
“That was something that the founders of the school and our board wanted to have in there,” he said, noting that there are similar projects-based, hands-on learning models that can be used should an agreement not be reached with EL Schools.
Overall, Hemming said CSI staff liked what it saw with the TRES proposal and recommended that the board approve the new school, which it did on a unanimous vote Tuesday.
According the school’s 500-page application submitted in March, TRES strives to offer “rigorous academics, cultural diversity and deep connection with students’ families and the community … in a small-school setting.”
The school also intends to have a strong emphasis on second-language acquisition, and to achieve a student enrollment that mirrors the larger population, Cramer said.
Of the more than 160 “intents to enroll” that have been received by TRES, about 30 percent are from Latino families in the community, she said.
“We have been embracing and reaching out to the broader community, and a lot of families are excited about the learning model and the small-school feel, and they are really excited to be a part of this,” Cramer said.
Student diversity was a concern raised by Re-1 district officials in a recent letter to the CSI board commenting on the TRES application. In addition, the district expressed concerns about having two EL schools in Glenwood Springs, and the potential to oversaturate the market.
More information about TRES, including pre-enrollment information, can be found at the school’s website, http://www.TwoRiversES.com
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