North Routt Community Charter School remains determined

Facility continues expansion in face of budget cuts

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— The slowing economy and threat of cuts from the state have not slowed the North Routt Community Charter School.

Despite a debt to the Steamboat Springs School District and the potential for capital funding from the state to be cut by a quarter, school director Colleen Poole said the school remains on track with increased enrollment and a new school planned for the near future.

In a report Monday night, District Finance Director Dale Mellor told the Steamboat Springs School Board that the debt from the charter school to the district - about $36,000 - has increased slightly from last year but is down from its all-time high of $45,000.

The school incurred the debt when a previous contract with the district covered 11 months of the year. The school still was responsible for payroll during the final month and borrowed money from the district to meet its obligations. Poole said she changed the contract soon after becoming director and since that time the debt has held steady.

"It's just been kind of going one year to the next because we've never quite made enough at the end of the year to pay it back," she said.

Mellor said the school is on track to financial solvency, though it may not happen soon.

"We're headed in the right direction here," he said. "We still have some cash flow problems, but we have some ideas for how to manage that."

At the beginning of the school year, Poole took a voluntary reduction in salary and hours to help the school's finances.

Poole said she expects the per-pupil capital funding from the state - usually $210 per student - will drop this year by about a quarter.

That will not slow the funding of the proposed new school building. The charter school received a $500,000 grant that must be used by June 2010 for the proposed 1,2000-square-foot building.

The $500,000 energy impact grant, from the Department of Local Affairs, is only the first step in raising the $2.4 million the school needs for the new space, Poole said. The rest of the money will be raised through more fundraising and community donations.

"To be quite honest, we've just started to kick that fund drive off. Our parent group is starting to put some projects together," she said.

The school's enrollment stands at 60 students and the current facilities will reach capacity at 65 students. Because several of those students enrolled after the state's Oct. 1 deadline, the school is only funded for 53 of the students.

The school owns a second yurt that may be erected to house a classroom, but the overall capacity of the school will not increase because it is limited by the site permit, Poole said. The school already uses one yurt, in addition to an old schoolhouse and converted barn, for classroom space. The new building, to be constructed half a mile away, will accommodate 90 to 100 students.

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