Re-1 board to consider TRES charter application
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Organizers of the Two Rivers Expeditionary School have formally applied with the Roaring Fork Re-1 school board to have the proposed Glenwood Springs-based school operate as a charter school within the Re-1 system.
The application was made during a presentation by Two Rivers Expeditionary School (TRES) proponents to the school board at its regular Wednesday meeting in Glenwood Springs.
The group includes representatives from both the Roaring Fork Re-1 and Garfield Re-2 (New Castle-to-Rifle) school districts. TRES has also jointly applied for a second straight year with the Colorado Charter School Institute to become a state charter school.
The two applications will now proceed on a similar timeline. The state charter review board is required to make a decision by Nov. 27, while the local school board will have until Dec. 10, according to procedures laid out by state statutes and school district policy.
“We are looking for the best opportunity that supports opening our school in [fall] 2013, and will take whichever track gets us there,” said Debra Winston, the interim head of school who is helping to steer the dual charter applications.
“We do want to be part of the school district first and foremost,” she emphasized. “We believe that would be the best situation for our kids and the community.”
TRES is proposed to open as a kindergarten-through-sixth-grade school with 146 students coming from the Glenwood Springs-to-Rifle area. It would expand to include 190 students in grades K-8 over the ensuing two years.
Though it would use the nationally recognized expeditionary learning (EL) model, “this school is being created by the people of the community,” Winston said.
About 20 parents and other TRES charter proponents attended the Wednesday meeting to begin to make their case for what would be Re-1’s second charter school, but its first in Glenwood Springs.
The Carbondale Community School operates as an Re-1 charter. The Ross Montessori School, also located in Carbondale, operates as a state charter school.
“This is a group of parents, teachers and community members who see a need for a school choice here in Glenwood Springs,” Winston said. “This model (expeditionary learning) was selected because of the incredible resources this community has to offer, and the opportunity to use the surrounding community for its classroom.”
An interim charter school board of directors is currently working to identify a location for the new school, with an eye toward West Glenwood.
The EL model includes typical classroom learning, but with an emphasis on expeditions outside the school setting to do studies based on hands-on, real-life applications. That can include science experiments, the arts, outdoor trips, community and civic projects.
Charter schools can be approved by the school district for a period of up to five years, and can be subsequently renewed, interim Re-1 Superintendent Diana Sirko advised the school board.
In addition to administrative and school board reviews, the application is to be reviewed by the District Accountability Committee.
There’s also a formal public comment procedure. And, the district will schedule a series of community meetings in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt to discuss the TRES proposal and gather feedback, Sirko said.
A formal public hearing will also take place before the school board makes a decision, she said.
School board president Matt Hamilton asked if the TRES proponents would be willing to consider other options besides a charter, such as “school-within-a-school” or possibly converting an existing Re-1 school into an EL school.
“At the end of the line, this looks like a great thing for kids and a great thing for education,” Hamilton said. “But I think there are more than these two [charter] paths to consider. If we don’t explore all those paths, we’re doing a disservice to the community.”
Hamilton said he also questions how successful the charter school would be in its stated intent to reach out to Latino parents to ensure that the new school is representative of the larger school district population.
Winston said the charter group is already working to organize community meetings specifically geared toward the Latino community.
She said EL schools nationally, whether they are charter schools or part of the regular public school system, are geared toward minority, low-income students. They also work as a good model for special education programs, she said.
The district is also concerned about the potential financial impact of opening a new charter school, due to the fact that a large percentage of the state’s per-pupil funding to the local districts would follow students who enroll in the charter school.
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Roaring Fork Schools volunteers who have already completed a comparable background check through an approved entity would be good to go.