Ideas growing with enrollment

Parent input needed at charter school forum Thursday

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— Big ideas are brewing in the yurt.

On Tuesday night at the North Routt Community Charter School in Clark, school staff and board members met in the school's 30-foot-wide yurt to talk about future plans for the growing school of 34 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Starting a foreign exchange program, importing student-teachers from Steamboat Springs, enlisting community aid to provide affordable housing for school staff and having a "Take Your Parent to School Day" were suggested during the informal brainstorming session.

North Routt Community Charter School officials are in the midst of a series of meetings to develop a long-term strategic plan for the school. Two more meetings are scheduled and will be held in the school's yurt from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

April 4 -- Parents, Student Body, Volunteers and Extracurricular Activities

April 18 -- Community Fundraising

Call: The school at 871-6062 or meeting facilitator Roy Powell at 846-1661.

"I think that's a great idea," head of school Colleen Poole said about an exchange program.

"It would certainly help our language programs," said Roy Powell, a former executive director of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. Powell is facilitating planning meetings at the charter school.

In North Routt, most ideas are welcome for a school that, during the past year, has added a math and science teacher, 11 students and the $25,000 yurt that is used as a multi-purpose classroom. Poole said it is time to start looking further into the future because the charter school is in its fifth year.

Tuesday's meeting was the fourth in a series of six gatherings held during the past several weeks. The meetings are intended to create a long-term strategic plan for the school. Previous meetings have focused on school finances, facilities, enrollment and academics.

The focus for Tuesday's meeting was school staff. Before branching off into wide-ranging ideas such as exchange programs, the five attendees talked about a need to offer a competitive salary for teachers at the charter school.

"I'd love to see us offer the same base level salary (as other Routt County schools)," said Stephanie Anderson, president of the board of directors at North Routt Preschool. "That's something we're struggling with at the pre-school right now."

Although Poole said the school is able to provide annual pay increases for its three teachers, she would "like us to be a little more competitive" in the hiring market, especially as growing enrollment necessitates hiring another teacher, possibly as soon as next year.

"My next goal is to get a very strong person to teach the humanities and social studies piece," Poole said.

The Routt County Planning Commission approved an expansion of the charter school's conditional use permit at its March 2 meeting, raising the number of students and facilities allowed on the school's Routt County Road 62 site.

"They're getting close to their capacity up there," Routt County staff planner Mary Alice Page-Allen said. "It's nice to see them grow, but from a land-use perspective, we have to work within the constraints of the land they're on."

Page-Allen said the school's original permit, in 2001, listed a maximum of 49 students. The amended permit raises that number to 60.

"One of the concerns with their current site is that it's a fairly small site," she said. "Their water systems are somewhat limited in terms of how many students and personnel they can serve."

Poole said the school's enrollment could increase by more than five students next year, a significant number considering the school's small enrollment. With that growth comes a need for more parent involvement, she said, which will be the focus of this Tuesday's planning meeting.

"We need to get parents out here (Tuesday night)," Poole said.

--o reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203

or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

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