Re-1 weighs in on charter application
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – A new state charter school proposed to be located in Glenwood Springs would have serious economic and social impacts on other public schools locally, according to Roaring Fork School District Re-1 Superintendent Judy Haptonstall.
Haptonstall recently submitted a letter to the Colorado Charter School Institute board expressing the school district’s concerns regarding the proposed Two Rivers Expeditionary School.
The proposal by a group of both Roaring Fork Re-1 and Garfield Re-2 parents, teachers and community members is currently before the Charter School Institute for consideration.
In her letter, Haptonstall counters the applicants’ claim that there is limited school choice in the area.
She cites 30 different public and private school options for grades kindergarten through eighth grade located in Garfield County, western Eagle County and the greater Roaring Fork Valley.
The Two Rivers Expeditionary school proposes to serve up to 164 students in grades K-8 from both Re-1 and Re-2.
The application notes that there are currently two charter schools in Carbondale, the state charter Ross Montessori, and the Re-1 district charter Carbondale Community School. However, Glenwood Springs and Re-2 do not have any charter school options, they point out.
But Haptonstall said another charter school within Re-1’s boundaries would further dilute an already dwindling public school funding pool.
“We hope the Charter School Institute understands there comes a point at which there are enough options in one area and adding more will weaken the existing ones,” Haptonstall writes in the Sept. 26 letter.
Re-1 estimates a $1.1 million hit to the district if the new state charter school is approved.
That would come on top of $5.1 million in reduced funding from the state over the past three years, and the potential for another $2 million to $3 million reduction next year, she points out in the letter.
“If this new charter is approved and the announced [state] budget cuts materialize, our district will be forced to cut our budget by $4.1 million,” Haptonstall writes. “Having made extensive budget cuts already over the last few years, we will have no choice but to begin cutting teachers and administrators, combining and/or closing schools and eliminating or reducing transportation.”
Beyond the fiscal impact, there’s also a social consideration, she said.
“The addition of nondistrict options has negatively impacted diversity in our district,” Haptonstall’s letter suggests.
“As an example, our elementary school in Carbondale, due to the options available in or near that community, is now 80 percent Hispanic,” she notes. “The other elementary schools in our district are, on average, 47 percent Hispanic.”
She adds that the school district’s own charter, Carbondale Community, has attempted to increase its Hispanic student enrollment with little success.
The proposed charter could create a similar pattern in Glenwood Springs, Haptonstall said.
“The challenges of getting all students to high levels of learning are exacerbated when a school’s population becomes predominantly low income and/or high immigrant/second language,” she states in the letter.
Another concern is that charter schools, based on the district’s experience, may not be equipped to handle the needs of special education students, she said.
A spokesperson for the charter group could not be reached Tuesday for comment on the concerns expressed by Haptonstall in her letter.
As part of its process to consider the application, the Charter School Institute will host a meeting at 11 a.m. Friday, Oct. 7, at the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs to take public input on the proposal.
The local meeting is intended to gauge demand and take any other public comments on the proposal, according to Tom McMillan, director of legal compliance for the institute, which operates as a division of the Colorado Department of Education.
Two Rivers Expeditionary School proposes to employ what’s called the Expeditionary Learning model (elschools.org). The model is used in several private and charter schools, as well as part of the curriculum in traditional public schools across the country.
The school proponents are currently looking for a location in Glenwood Springs to house the school, which is proposed to open in fall 2012. A decision on the proposed new charter is expected by mid-November.
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