Charter group, school board mum on meeting

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— A group of people trying to start a north Routt charter school met with Steamboat Springs School District officials Monday night, although they are being quiet about the details of the meeting.
The group is still trying to determine what establishing a charter school in the north Routt area will involve, and wants to do that before going public, Steamboat Springs Superintendent Cyndy Simms said.
"We think it's safer for the group to really work through what the issues are," Simms said.
North Routt has established two committees, the North Routt Community School Board and the North Routt Community School Accountability Committee. Five members from both committees were present Monday night, meeting with Simms and RE-2 School Board members Paul Fisher and Matt Hermes.
Simms would not comment on the issues, although at a June 12 School Board meeting, board members expressed concerns about the time line to complete a charter school application and financial implications to the district. Fisher said at Monday's meeting that he did have some issues to resolve.
Mike Swinsick, a member of the North Routt Community School Board, reiterated to Simms that they are merely beginning a dialogue. There was some relief on the part of the north Routt committees that the talking, at least, has started.
"We got the fears out of the way," he said.
Simms said they all have the same goal in mind, regardless of the issues.
"The overriding interest by all the parties is to meet the kids' needs in the north Routt part of the Steamboat Springs School District," Simms said. "That's what everybody's No. 1 intent is."
For the past few months, discussion of an educational alternative in north Routt has intensified. In a recent poll of roughly 35 north Routt community members, a charter school was chosen over a satellite school, which is merely another district school. The main reasons, according to the charter school application, are the distance to schools in Steamboat, the potential growth in the north county and the chance to create an educational philosophy that would foster community in the area.
The north Routt group wants to have some sort of educational alternative for kindergarten to third-graders in north Routt by this fall, even if it means having a satellite school, they said.
The board has 60 days from receipt of the formal application, which it received June 12, to make a decision. If the board rejects the application, it automatically moves to the state for a decision.
A charter school is a public school that is part of school district but operates on a semiautonomous basis with terms negotiated by the district and the charter group with its own mission and clear goals and standards.
Charter schools were established to provide choices in education in Colorado, according to information from the Colorado Department of Education. A charter school is open to all students in a district and, as of September 1997, 50 charter schools are operating in Colorado, according to the state.
In north Routt, residents said that they want to educate their children with a mind to their unique community. In the application, its stated vision is to have children achieve their highest potential in a setting concurrent with the countryside and historical significance of the area.
The proposed charter would be a three-year contract from August 2000 to June 2003 and would cap at 15 students, with a goal of expanding to up to eighth-grade students. The charter group is also requesting 95 percent of per-pupil funding from the school district. Per-pupil funding is estimated at $5,880 for the 2000-01 school year, according to the board's preliminary budget.
The charter group is asking for district funding only for special education administration, liability insurance, payroll functions and transportation to and from school. The charter group hopes to fund personnel, materials, food service and capital expenditures through grants or community efforts.
Simms said that the group has another meeting scheduled for July 5.

- To reach Jennifer Bartlett call 871-4204 or e-mail jbartlett@amigo.net

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