Steamboat Springs Three months after denying a local group's Montessori charter school application, Steamboat Springs School District officials hope to rule on a revised proposal at a February school board meeting.
Superintendent Cyndy Simms said the district wants the Montessori Steering Committee -- the local group who authored the application -- to have a revised application prepared in time for the Feb. 3 school board study session in hopes a final proposal will be ready for board action at the Feb. 10 school board meeting.
Jody Patten, president of the Montessori Steering Committee, said she likes the proposed timeline.
"We're thrilled that they want to move like that," Patten said. "That kind of eagerness to discuss and resolve is great."
After the Montessori committee appealed the local school board's original decision to the Colorado Board of Education, the state board ruled on Jan. 15 in favor of the committee. It determined the Steamboat Springs School District did not serve in the best interests of its pupils or the community when it denied the Montessori application in October 2002.
The state's ruling remanded the application back to the school district for reconsideration.
By law, the school district has 30 days from the day of the hearing to make a decision on the application.
The school district on Wednesday received the state's remand letter, which provides instructions for the district and the applicant.
Limiting the proposed charter school to preschool through third grade, and a number of contingencies concerning the school's ability to secure adequate enrollment, sufficient grant funding and provide budget plans in case the district's per-pupil-funding decreases, are among recommendations included in the remand letter.
"From our view, we would anticipate that the charter applicants would revise their application in accordance with those suggestions," School Board President Paul Fisher said. "The way the remand was put, we really feel that the onus is on the (charter school) applicants to make the revisions."
Patten said the state's recommendations were "very reasonable" and make good business sense.
"We have to have grants," Patten said. "At a minimum, we have to have $60,000 in grants and/or money from fund-raising. That's just a business reality."
The committee is applying for a federal charter school start-up grant in hopes of receiving $5,000 per student.
"We haven't run enrollment yet, but we feel pretty confident we'll be able to fill preschool and kindergarten classes," she said. "And we've come up with a contingency plan in the event of no increase in state funding."
Simms said the school district is working cooperatively with the applicants, but certain issues still need to be addressed.
"At this juncture, we're trying to find out if this budget is sound and what the financial impact is on the district," Simms said. "If (those issues) can be resolved, then that's great."
District members are still concerned the proposed school may simply be a conversion of the Yampa Valley Montessori Education Center, a private preschool, into a public school, Fisher said.
However, the majority of the state board did not believe the application proposed such a conversion.
"We are trying to do more to help convince the school district that we are absolutely not converting a private preschool into a public school," Patten said.
The school district still has the option of appealing the Jan. 15 ruling on grounds that the decision was not within the state board's jurisdiction. Private school-conversion debates are typically decided by the state court system, school district attorney Chris Gdowski said.
The district has not decided whether to appeal the ruling, Simms said.
"It's certainly an option, but nobody's discussed that," she said. "No decision has been reached."
The Montessori committee remains optimistic, Patten said.
"I think we'll be able to reach agreement, I really do," she said. "We want everybody to feel good about it."
-- To reach Brent Boyer, call 871-4234
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org