New charter school coming?

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The vacant Lakeview Elementary School on County Road M is a possible home for a new charter school that would be called Mesa Verde STEAM Academy. Enlargephoto


The vacant Lakeview Elementary School on County Road M is a possible home for a new charter school that would be called Mesa Verde STEAM Academy.

The Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 School District is officially considering adding a new charter school.

The Re-1 board agreed to conduct a work-study session on Oct. 2 to consider sponsoring the Mesa Verde STEAM Academy.

Kay Phelps is helping organize the proposed school, which would emphasize science, technology, engineering, art and math. She addressed the Re-1 board on Tuesday, and requested that they respond to a sponsorship request by mid-October.

The board plans to give her an answer at its Oct. 9 meeting.

“I love seeing options for kids,” Re-1 Superintendent Alex Carter said. “I’m not sure where I stand on this.

There’s a lot of enthusiasm around this idea,” he added, noting the school would be project- and inquiry-based with art integrated into the subject matter.

Phelps said a group of interested citizens has been meeting for a year. There are 10 people on the steering committee. In addition, the group has received letters of interest from more than 50 people.

“Students will present projects to a panel of experts,” said Phelps, who holds a doctorate in education and teaches at Fort Lewis College. The students and experts could meet via Skype.

She noted that four schools in the Adams and Thompson school districts in the Denver metro area are using a similar model.

“We hope to be an asset,” Phelps said Wednesday. She described Carter as “a very forward-thinking superintendent,” but added, “Reform starts at the top and the bottom and meets somewhere. It can’t just be at the top.

“When young children aren’t in an environment where they can problem solve, they lose their ability to problem solve,” she said.

The proposed K-5 school plans to open next year with grades K-3, add fourth grade in the second year and fifth grade in the third year.

Phelps said the committee is looking at the vacant Lakeview School as a building. “It has great potential,” she said. “We would like to retrofit it for a green school” by using a low-interest loan. Lakeview Elementary has been vacant for six years, Phelps said. The school was used for as many as 40 or 50 first- through third-grade students, said Melissa Brunner, Re-1’s chief financial officer.

The committee is trying to meet a mid-October grant application deadline. The grant would provide $185,000 to $200,000 per year for three years.

The committee already asked the Dolores Re-4a School Board about sponsorship, but was told they would like to wait until the Re-1 board makes a decision, Phelps said. A third possibility is to apply for sponsorship through the Colorado Charter School Institute (CSI), which Durango Mountain Middle School did. That school opened last year. The committee did not receive a response from the Mancos Re-6 School District, Phelps said.