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Board OKs Charter School

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By Shelley Widhalm, Reporter-Herald Staff Writer
‘Legally obligated’ to approve application because it meets state criteria

The founders of Loveland Classical Schools can open their new school this fall, the school board decided Wednesday, but for grades K-9 only, not up to grade 11 as originally requested.

Before a packed boardroom Wednesday night, the Thompson School District Board of Education gave the nod to the founders to open their proposed charter school, but with a 12-item list of terms and conditions.

The board voted 4-2 on the remanded application for what will become a K-12 school with a Core Knowledge curriculum for grades K-8 and classical education for grades 9-12.

Board members Lola Johnson and Karen Stockley voted against the resolution that conditionally approves the school, with Leslie Young absent from the vote.

“Sadly, my biggest issue is the loss of local control,” said board member Janice Marchman.

The board had denied the application Nov. 4, but the Colorado State Board of Education remanded the application back to the board after a hearing Feb. 9 without having to be liable or responsible for the decision, Marchman said.

The board is “legally obligated” to approve the application because it meets the state board’s criteria for establishing charter schools, “though it’s not what I want to do,” she said.

Board member Leonard Sherman said, “Regardless of what we do tonight, it’s a done deal…You’re going to get your school. It doesn’t matter what we say.”

Rick Hoover of Loveland, one of seven speakers who commented on the application, told the board members to make their decision according to what is best for the community and to listen to what their constituents want.

“If it’s not what they want, (parents and students) will go somewhere else,” Hoover said, showing his support for the charter school.

According to the board resolution, the application is approved for a three-year term with the following conditions:

  • Exceptional student services, or special education, and services for English language learners will be provided by the district, as is the case with New Vision Charter School.
  • The school will operate with grades K-9 during the first year and add grades 10 to 12 the following year or a new grade each passing year. The ninth grade is required to have a minimum of two classrooms.

    “Our concern is the quality of programming that can be offered at the high school level,” said Judy Skupa, referring to the expected enrollment of 38 students in grade 9 and 21 students for grades 10 and 11, questioning whether the programming could be comprehensive enough to meet graduation requirements.

    The ninth grade, however, has a waiting list, and the founders have plans to increase enrollment numbers, co-founder Tamara Cramer said.

  • Before the first year of operation, the founders are required to correct any errors or deficiencies in meeting the state-required accountability mandates.
  • The founders are required to submit a revised, balanced budget based on proposed student enrollment, which also will reflect the demographics and diversity of the community the district serves.

    “I want to see every attempt is made to recruit different student groups,” Superintendent Ron Cabrera told the founders.

    Coberly said finding a meeting place to provide information about the charter school in low-income neighborhoods has been difficult, and she asked that the district help provide meeting space.

  • An accountability report is due to the district by Sept. 30 of each year the school is in operation.

At the regular meeting, board member Lola Johnson questioned the application’s lack of a gifted and talented program.

After 1 ½ hours of discussion and the go-ahead from the board, Cramer and Coberly issued a press release announcing David Yu of Loveland, a Thompson Valley High School graduate, as the school’s principal.

Yu currently is a high school math instructor and advised the elementary math program for Ridgeview Classical Schools in Fort Collins, the school that Loveland Classical Schools plans to use as a model for its high school curriculum.

“Mr. Yu is a visionary leader. He truly understands our mission and goals, and he can lead our school to success,” Cramer said, according to the press release.

Sherman told the founders he appreciates their “commitment and passion.”

“I also appreciate the fact you’ve been willing to cooperate with this board,” he said.