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School has all Ducks in Row

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By Shelley Widhalm, Reporter-Herald Staff Writer
State’s queries are addressed, claim charter co-founders

Two of the founders of Loveland Classical Schools already have the answers to concerns raised by the state about their proposed charter school.

“We’re going to address all of these things,” said Tamara Cramer, co-founder of the school, during a study session Monday with the Board of Education for Thompson School District.

“We’re trying to find the best way to articulate it. We take this very seriously and will address every concern you have.”

The founders appealed the denial of their application for a K-12 charter school to the Colorado State Board of Education. On February 9, the state board held a hearing and remanded the application back to the local board.

The local board has 30 days, or until March 11, to take action on the remand.

The application details the founders’ plans for opening Loveland Classical Schools this fall, starting with 350 students in grades K-11. The school would follow a Core Knowledge curriculum in grade K-8 with an emphasis on classical education in grades 9-12.

The state provided the founders with instructions on ways to improve their application to meet the concerns raised by Thompson School District officials.

The district officials said the application fails to provide a program that would serve all students, is inconsistent in instructional approach and does not offer a complete financial plan.

The state’s instructions are to serve as a recommendation, said Ron Cabrera, superintendent of schools for Thompson School District.

“Neither the board, nor the applicant, are compelled to respond to them,” Cabrera told Cramer and Trisha Coberly, also a founder.

The state’s instructions for improving the school plan include:

  • Developing a curriculum and instructional model that prepares secondary students to meet or exceed the state’s academic standards.
  • Addressing 23 budget concerns identified in the financial plan for the school.
  • Identifying a management and administrative team for the school that includes a business manager and a principal.

The local board asked the founders to submit their responses to the state’s recommendations to district staff by February 22.

“We, as a local board, have additional concerns as well,” said board president Lucille Steiner.

Those concerns revolve around the founders’ goal to open the school by August 2011, students in grades 9-11 not having the necessary background in the Socratic method and the school’s abstinence approach to sex education.

“We’re totally open to dialogue and conversation on all of these,” Cramer said.

In a follow-up interview, Cramer and Coberly said they have identified grant funds for the school, as well as a site, but they cannot hire staff until they get the funding and won’t get the funding until the application is approved.

“The school is ready to roll,” Cramer said.

The staff will review the responses to the state’s instructions and submit a recommendation to the board by February 28.

That will give the board enough time to review the material before considering the application at the March 2 board meeting, Steiner said.

The updated application will be presented as a discussion item that includes an opportunity for public hearing, she said.

The board will have the option to send the application back to staff or to vote on it at the meeting. If the board votes on it, the members can deny the application, approve it, or approve it with conditions.

“This Wednesday was too soon,” Steiner said, adding that waiting until the March 2 meeting provides enough time for adequate notice about the public hearing.

“If we needed to, we could call a special meeting after March 2,” she said.