New charter school proposed for Glenwood Springs
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – A group of parents and teachers from two local school districts have proposed a new charter school to be located in Glenwood Springs, but serving students from throughout Garfield County.
An application for the proposed Two Rivers Expeditionary School is currently being reviewed by the Colorado Charter School Institute (CSI). The institute operates as a division of the state Department of Education.
Charter schools in Colorado can either be approved by and operate under the supervision of local school districts, or by the state.
If approved, the new Glenwood Springs school would be the third charter school operating within the Roaring Fork School District Re-1, but the only one in Glenwood Springs.
Originally proposed as the Mountain View Community School, proponents recently changed the name to avoid confusion with the Mountain View Church, according to group spokeswoman Nancy Metrovich of Silt. The school proposal is not associated with the church.
The applicants are working with a local real estate firm to find a location for the school.
The new school would serve a maximum of 164 students in grades kindergarten through eighth. It would employ what’s called the Expeditionary Learning education model.
Metrovich said the model has been implemented in several private, charter, and traditional public schools across the country.
Several such schools are located in the Denver area, according to information found at the Expeditionary Learning website (elschools.org).
“We were interested in a project-based learning program that would allow students to utilize the natural resources available in our community,” Metrovich said.
She said the model was recommended to the group by the Colorado League of Charter Schools, a nonprofit organization that supports charter schools in the state.
“The curriculum incorporates all of the Colorado state standards, and we believe it will be a great fit with our vision,” Metrovich said.
Local meeting planned
As part of the review process, a public input meeting will be scheduled in Glenwood Springs early next month, according to Tom McMillan, director of legal compliance for CSI. A date, time and location for the meeting will be announced soon, he said.
In the meantime, the application is before a review panel made up of CSI officials and representatives from other charter schools in Colorado.
The CSI board of directors will also interview the applicants after the local input meeting. A decision is expected to be made by mid-November, McMillan said.
Currently, three charter applications are under consideration by the CSI, he said. Last year, six charter applications were approved. Three of those were transfers from local school districts to the state, he said.
“It is a very detailed, laborious process that we go through to review these applications,” McMillan said.
The local meeting is intended to gauge demand for the school. The proposed budget and operating plan for new schools are also closely reviewed, he said.
“We want to make sure schools are well-planned … and are viable from the start,” McMillan said. “It doesn’t do any favor to the students who will go to a school if it’s not well-planned.”
Although the idea for a new charter school originated in the Garfield Re-2 school district, Metrovich said the group began hearing from Re-1 parents about a desire to have another school option in Glenwood Springs.
“We found there to be a desire for school choice in both districts, and chose Glenwood Springs as a convenient location for many of our supporters,” she said. “There seems to be similar interest in both communities, and parents in support of this are willing to transport their children.”
The group includes parents of children who attend public schools in both districts, existing charter schools and private schools. Others currently home-school their children, she said.
According to the charter application, “Our vision is to develop responsible students who will be successful life-long learners and productive contributors to the community.
“Students will be active participants in their education with an appreciation for outdoor education and their community,” it continues. “Teachers will use expeditionary learning and core knowledge as their curriculum to ensure all students will meet or exceed Colorado State standards.”
The school is proposed to open in fall of 2012.
Currently, two charter schools operate within the Re-1 district, both in Carbondale. They include the Carbondale Community School, which is chartered under Roaring Fork Re-1, and the state charter Ross Montessori School.
CSI’s McMillan said most school districts in the state have retained exclusive authority over charter applications, meaning applications must first be reviewed by the local school district.
While Garfield Re-2 has retained exclusive authority, Re-1 is among a handful of districts its size that has not asked for such authority over charter applications.
Roaring Fork Re-1 Superintendent Judy Haptonstall said the school board had considered retaining exclusive authority after Ross Montessori was approved in 2005, but decided not to.
Both districts have been asked by CSI to provide an impact statement and any other comments as part of the charter review.
If approved, the new charter school would receive 100 percent of the per-pupil state funding for any Re-1 or Re-2 students who enroll.
As of Aug. 26, the Two Rivers Expeditionary School anticipated an enrollment of 78 students by next fall. Of those, 80 percent resided in Glenwood Springs and 20 percent were from the Garfield Re-2 school district, according to the application.
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