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Supporters Plead for Ninth Grade

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By Shelley Widhalm, Reporter-Herald Staff Writer

Ninth-grader Grace Davis expects that the typical high school experience isn’t something most students enjoy – unless they’re the quarterback or the popular girl.

Grace said she wants to attend Loveland Classical Schools, a new charter school with a classical curriculum, to avoid being the “underdog.” She joined 24 students, parents and staffers Wednesday night who told the Thompson Board of Education why it needs to retain ninth grade in the K-9 school opening this fall.

The school has 26 ninth-graders enrolled, but the school board requires there be 50 by the first day of school Sept. 6.

“Fifty or 26 kids, does it really change my education?” Grace asked the board.

Fort Collins resident Cassandra Finl, who will be teaching music at the school, said she takes pride in coming from a small school, Ridgeview Classical Schools in Fort Collins.

“I don’t believe my high school experience was diminished by studying with a smaller class size,” Finl said.

Other speakers echoed their support of a smaller student body and smaller class sizes, as well as their desire for a classical education.

“It would be unsettling (for students) to have their school squashed a few days before the start of school,” said Loveland resident Joni Sellars.

The school board did not take action on the issue by press time.

During the work session, Judy Skupa, deputy superintendent, reported on the ongoing communication between the district and the school staff.

Skupa met with David Yu, principal of the school, on July 25 to express her concerns with two issues – the size of the ninth-grade class and the ability of the school, with the smaller class, to provide an adequate and comprehensive high school program, she said.

Skupa requested a copy of the instructional plan in early August, but Yu was sick when the meeting was scheduled and did not reschedule, she said.

“I really don’t know what that high school model is at this point,” Skupa said.

Janice Marchman, board member, said she was concerned that the school, which has hired staff for the ninth grade, would have to lay off some of that staff.

“They set up a budget that counts on 26 ninth-graders,” Marchman said.

School board member Lola Johnson said her concerns include breaking a contract between the school and the district.

“I don’t want to set a precedent,” Johnson said.

Karen Stockley, board member, suggested a one-year trial to allow the ninth grade to continue as long as 50 students are enrolled in the ninth grade by the next school year.

Tamara Cramer, co-founder of the school, said she and the founders are trying to generate the rest of the required enrollment for this school year.

“We’re frantically working to try to get these kids,” Cramer said.

Cramer said the school originally was proposed as a K-11 school for the first year and at one time had 49 students enrolled in ninth grade. When the last two grades were dropped, the school lost several students from families who wanted their children to attend the same school, she said.

“Now we’re coming to you to plead to reconsider,” Cramer said. “We’re on the same team now. We’re now part of this district.”