Wednesday, January 3, 2001
North Routt The North Routt Charter School Board is ready to unveil its preliminary application to the public today at 6:30 p.m. at the Moon Hill Schoolhouse on County Road 129 just south of Clark.
The charter school application, initially presented to the Steamboat School Board in June 2000, has already been pushed back twice to allow for more time for the board to work through the particulars of the application. The charter board will likely present its final application for a school board vote on Jan. 29, charter board member Shaunna Watterson said.
"We feel that the application is as good as it's going to get," Watterson said. "The most important thing is to feel that the community, and especially the north Routt community, has had a say in this whole process."
The proposed charter school would be on a three-year contract and would cap at 25 kindergarten to fifth-grade students. The school could potentially expand to include students as old as eighth-graders. The charter group is requesting 95 percent of per-pupil funding from the Steamboat Springs school district. The charter group also wants the district to cover its liability and insurance costs.
Throughout the process of writing the application, the board has continually revised its requests.
The charter board and Steamboat's District Accountability Committee are both interested in finding out what the public thinks of the idea of having a charter school in the north Routt County area. The DAC, which will also review the project, has been asked by the school board to gauge public opinion on the application. They have held parent-teacher meetings about the school and are now ready to present a plan to the public.
"The Clark community's input is essential," said Ginny Jaramillo, the program director for the Colorado Rural Charter School Network. "That has been the whole point of this, to respond to the community's need."
Jaramillo, who has worked with rural communities throughout Colorado that have attempted to create charter schools, said that unlike charter schools in cities that often specialize in a specific area of interest (such as technology), rural charter schools are usually focused around a geographic area. That distinction means community input becomes especially valuable, because the goals of the school are often connected very closely with the goals of the community.
Some charter schools in rural areas, for instance, publish their community's newspaper, she said.
Jaramillo said that charter schools have to deal with a lot of difficult questions that beg community input. For instance, because of the size of the proposed school, it would likely not have enough students of the same age to necessitate a teacher for every grade, nor would it get the funds to support all those teachers, Jaramillo said. Therefore, children from different grade levels might be placed together in the same classroom.
"The board needs to figure out how to develop multiple-age teaching strategies," Jaramillo said.
Watterson said she expects the school to enroll about 50 to 60 students in the early going, with room for growth. She said she has already received word from about 25 committed parents in the north Routt community that are interested in sending their children to the school.
The application aims to provide schooling for 25 students, who would be taught in multi-age classrooms, Watterson said.
If the Steamboat School Board votes favorably on the application, the charter board will have 90 days to finalize a detailed contract with the school board, Watterson said.