Charter school OK'd

RE-2 attaches conditions to North Routt plan

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— As of this September, some north Routt students may not have to wake up before 7 a.m. to catch the school bus to Steamboat Springs.

The Steamboat School Board moved Monday night to approve with conditions an application for a charter school in north Routt County for the upcoming school year and the following two years. The conditions the school board placed on the approval, however, may compel the north Routt charter board to appeal the local board's decision to the Colorado Board of Education.

"We feel that some of the conditions that they put on the approval are unacceptable," said charter board member Sandy Clark.

The charter school board felt the district was imposing conditions unilaterally that the charter board had not reviewed.

"Some of the conditions that were not negotiable are ones that we didn't have a chance to respond to," said Mary Bramer, a north Routt resident who is also on the School Accountability Committee.

The district, however, felt it needed to place conditions on the approval to make sure the school met its requirements.

"The safe thing for this district is to put the conditions that we see as very significant in the motion," said school board member Tom Sharp. "I don't think there's an aura of not wanting this to succeed."

The school would teach at least 18 north Routt students in multi-age classrooms. It would offer traditional classes such as math and reading along with more place-based learning opportunities, in which the children could have more contact with their own community.

The school would be funded by per-pupil state funding from the district, which is collected from county property taxes. Those property taxes are sent to districts via a state-enforced finance formula that determines the amount of the per-pupil dollars each year. This year, the district received $5,868 per pupil.

The charter school, which is a public school and part of the district, would get the district's per-pupil money for the students who attended the north Routt school. That per-pupil funding could amount to as much as $145,000, District Superintendent Cyndy Simms said.

Because property taxes do not get allocated until March or April, the district decided to wait until next spring to send the charter school its first check. That means the charter school will have to find another source of income to get started.

And financial questions, according to charter board members, may drive them to appeal the ruling.

The district placed a condition on the approval that would deny the charter school about 18 percent of its proposed funding, Clark said. That funding would come from state money that goes toward supporting "small attendance centers" like rural charter schools.

The attendance center funding became the most prominent issue for the charter board, which is attempting to get by until March or April without their per-pupil funding. This attendance center funding, which the state provides for districts to operate schools more than 20 miles from the school district's center, could amount to about $40,000 based on the number of students.

The school board's move to withhold the small attendance center funding would partially offset the loss of the district's per-pupil funding to the charter school, Simms said.

The charter board will negotiate the charter school's contract with the school board over the next 90 days.

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