Fund Board waits on request

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The Education Fund Board on Wednesday discussed whether it could and should fund a $45,000 request from the North Routt Community Charter School.

The funds would allow the charter school to be part of the Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound teaching program for a second year.

Ultimately, the Fund Board, which allocates funds from Steamboat Spring's half-cent sales tax for education, decided to pay the Steamboat Springs School District's attorney to look at the issue. The attorney will be asked to determine how funds, if the grant were approved, would be channeled from the Fund Board to the charter school.

The Fund Board will revisit the request at its August meeting.

At the meeting, Fund Board members agreed that the teaching program seemed worthwhile. But, several said they thought the per-pupil price tag of the program was too high.

Robin Crossan, acting president of the Fund Board, said the program sounded wonderful but that she had "great reservations" about the program's expense.

In response to that concern, Colleen Poole, principal and director of the charter school, said that the Fund Board has gifted $1.8 million to the Steamboat school district, or about $956 per student.

In contrast, she said, the charter school's request would be about $1,200 per student, as 38 students are expected to enroll. Poole said the school would be glad to accept the $956 that already has been gifted to students in the Steamboat school district.

The charter school has not received any gifts from the Fund Board in the past.

Fund Board member Norm Weaver pointed out that the $1.8 million spent by the Fund Board throughout the school district was not just for curriculum and teacher training.

Poole then responded that the funds are meant to enhance students' education, and she said she thought the charter school's request was meeting that goal.

Most Fund Board members agreed that because students at the charter school were part of the Steamboat school district, the charter school has the right to request funds.

But some said the charter school was created with the intent of being responsible for its own programs and funding, and so they did not agree that the Fund Board should help fund it.

"I have no problem with the program at all, I just don't think we should be paying for it," Fund Board member Jerry Kozatch said.

The charter school's request was heard first by an administrative team in January, but it only recently came to the Fund Board. Fund Board member Harry Lambart said he thought the Fund Board had an obligation to try to expedite the project.

Pat Gleason, a Fund Board member and a Steamboat Springs School Board member, said it was important to look at the issue carefully and thoughtfully.

At this point, he said it looked as if the Fund Board was "going to be setting a precedent of some type" when deciding about whether to allocate funds for the charter school.

This was the first year the charter school was an Expeditionary Learning School. Poole said that next year would be the only one in which funds from the Fund Board were needed, as the school should be able to generate the funds on its own in coming years.

-- To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail scunningham@steamboatpilot.com

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