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Board of Education Approves Charter School

By Carl McCutchen, Loveland Connection Staff Writer

Loveland Classical Schools will get its chance after all.

After the proposed charter school’s initial application was remanded back to Thompson School District last month by the Colorado Department of Education, the school district’s Board of Education once again tackled the issue Wednesday night, handing down a favorable decision.

The board passed a resolution 4-2 in favor of allowing the school to move forward with a planned opening for the 2011-12 school year, with board members Lola Johnson and Karen Stockley voting against the resolution. Leslie Young was excused from the meeting and did not vote.

“As we move forward with this, I still have some continued concerns,” said board President Lucille Steiner. “I think with conversations with the applicants, things could be worked out and we would be satisfied with what the school would do and how they would meet certain needs.”

The board amended the resolution before passing it to stipulate that the school open as a kindergarten through ninth-grade school.

Voting in favor of the resolution was a giant leap from last year, when the board voted unanimously to deny the application, citing several financial and curriculum concerns.

Since the Department of Education hearing last month, the district and representatives from the charter school have been working together to address many of the original concerns, and Judy Skupa, deputy superintendent for the district, told the board the areas of concern are at acceptable levels.

She said the financial plan, which was one of the most glaring concerns initially, was addressed and earned the approval of the district’s chief financial officer, Steve Towne.

“It is a credible and financially sound plan,” Skupa said, quoting Towne.

She also told the board that the proposed ninth-through 12th-grade curriculum showed “good faith” and that the founders created the groundwork for a solid curriculum, even though it still needs work to include post-secondary readiness and 21st century skills.

Another area Skupa said had been ironed out was an issue regarding at-risk interventions and how the school would handle students on individual educational plans, gifted and talented students and English language learners.

“As we look at what Loveland Classical did propose in their addendum, they have met the minimal requirements,” she said. “Their description really quite broad. As we move forward, it’s going to need to be pretty detailed of how they will meet the students with IEPs, gifted and talented and ELL.”

Giving the go-ahead to Loveland Classical Schools seemed difficult to some.

Board member Len Sherman, who voted for the resolution, let his hesitancy be known before the vote.

“I would look forward to working with this group on those things that remain at issue,” he said. “I don’t believe it is in the best interest of kids to further divide up the population we now have the declining enrollments, but I’m also a realist and I know this is going to happen because I understand the process. Regardless of what we do here tonight, it’s a done deal.”

Stockley also let her concerns about the charter school application be heard, although she admitted her concerns were primarily philosophical differences.

“I still have issues with your at-risk kids,” she said. “I believe you will have difficulties with your special education kids, your ELL, and a kid that does not fit the norm of what any regular kid will need. I think what will happen is even if they do win your lottery and od get into your school, they will probably not succeed and will end up leaving your school.”

Stockley took issue with the school’s abstinence-only education.

“I believe I would not be doing my diligence of protecting every student in this district if I approved a school that taught this curriculum,” she said.

Johnson also voiced her concerns but ended her comments with a hint of optimism: “We want charter schools to be successful because if you are successful, so we would not want you to fail,” she said.