Steamboat Springs When the North Routt Charter School opened its doors at the beginning of this school year, its main objective was to have North Routt students return to the community. But with a recent grant, the community just might be returning to school.
Shared with six other rural charter schools in Colorado, North Routt received a Twenty-First Century Grant that allows the community to develop adult classes and after-school and summer programs.
Since August, North Routt's steward of the grant, Sandy Clark, has been working to bring a variety of classes to North Routt everything from yoga to animal husbandry.
"I think people are now realizing we do have more of an identity up here than a bedroom community for Steamboat," Clark said. "The school can be a benefit for everyone."
The federal program awarded the money to the Colorado Rural Charter School Network, which will use almost $250,000 for three years to build sustainable programs in the community. Clark, with the direction of North Routt's Community Leadership Forum, will oversee the $40,000 a year granted to North Routt.
"Typically, the public school doesn't do a lot of community education," said Chris Painter of the Community Leadership Forum. "In many other rural communities, you see that more. To take a woodworking class, you might go to the school. And that is really what we are all about outside of class, what type of opportunities can we create that build communities?"
With the help of Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus, the Community Leadership Forum put out a community survey to see what North Routt residents were interested in learning.
Although Painter said the group has not decided exactly where the money will go, the funds are intended to meet community needs.
Yoga was the No. 1 class residents requested in the survey. Clark is trying to establish classes that will bring a yoga instructor to North Routt by the end of January.
Although a number of yoga classes are offered in Steamboat, Clark and Painter said that having classes like yoga in North Routt means that people will not have to travel as far and can interact with their neighbors.
"(The grant) focuses on activities that are education building and continue to bring people together and provide the quality of life that the majority of people don't want to go to Steamboat for," Painter said.
So far, the grant has provided classes in first aid, CPR and winter survival skills.
But Clark is looking to expand that list to classes that focus on technology, ranch and wilderness education and recreation, such as ski conditioning, snowshoeing and ice skating.
In the first aid classes, Clark said they had at least 30 calls and 15 people attend.
Unlike the yoga class, which is scheduled to take place in the upper office space of Glen Eden Resort, most of the classes will access the Clark Schoolhouse. The school's computer lab, Clark said, can be used at night to teach residents about building Web pages or using e-mail.
"One of the things that came out of surveying a number of people is the need for basic communication, such as Internet access and fax machines," Painter said.
The school received the grant as part of the Colorado Rural Charter School Network, which includes five other charter schools throughout the state. Clark said a grant this large would have been impossible to get by a school the size of North Routt.
Stephen Hanson, a network director who oversees how the money is spent in all six schools, said this grant is a way to erase the boundaries between the school and the community. For schools that usually have just 20 students, which means about $120,000 in funding a year under the state finance formula, extra money is always helpful.
"(That budget) is not a lot of money for an entire school to operate on. Twenty-First Century not only offers one of the biggest grants, the idea behind it is to continue to develop academic achievement," Hanson said.
If North Routt wants to look at a successful grant program, Clark and Hanson said they could learn from how the Guffey Community Charter School incorporated its $40,000.
After a year, charter school students are teaching Web design classes to adults, they expanded the after-school program and there are more than 20 classes offered this fall ranging from metaphysics to Kung Fu.
Clark said eventually she sees the North Routt program having three night classes a week and successful after-school and summer programs.
The goal of the grant is to have the programs running independently by the end of three years.
For the rural charter schools to do that, Hanson said community agencies would be needed to provide funding.
Clark said at this point there would be fees for all classes to cover the costs of the program.