Kiva charter is turned back

Proposed school has other options

The Re-1 school board voted 5-0 Tuesday to deny an application for a proposed charter school.

But that decision does not prevent the Children’s Kiva Montessori Charter School from moving forward.

Charter schools attract students away from Re-1 schools, reducing the districts’ budget, which is already stretched thin, said board member Pete Montano. Schools are funded by per pupil operating revenue, which for Re-1 is $6,300 per student.

“Losing that funding would force us to make more cuts,” he said.

Board member Diane Fox said the timing for a new charter was not ideal.

“We already have a full plate with the new high school,” she said. “They are passionate about it and have worked hard on the application so it is not an easy decision.”

The Kiva’s plans to open in the fall of 2014 and initially offer instruction for grades K-6, said Anna Cole, a Kiva board member spearheading the charter school effort.

“Initial enrollment will be 64 children, with plans to expand to a middle school as the school grows,” said Cole, who has a Ph.D. in education. “It is really a K-8 plan with a maximum student body of 130 by year five.”

Montessori instruction uses a more hands-on collaborative approach to education that focuses on academics, combined with community participation, self-reliance, individual choice, and mixed-grades settings where older students assist younger students. Charters must comply with academic and testing standards of the Colorado Department of Education.

“Charter schools have more flexibility in their curriculum than traditional schools, and it gives parents a choice,” she said. “It is where Colorado is heading.”

Cole explained that the denial by the school board is unfortunate, but not an insurmountable hurdle under Colorado charter rules.

The Kiva could also be approved under the auspices of the states Charter School Institute, and Colorado has a track record of supporting alternative education options for kids, she said.

“Re-1 will write a letter why they denied us, then we will appeal for approval under the CSI and then they provide the administrative support and oversight,” Cole said.

A coalition of Kiva staff and board members have been planning for a charter school for some time, Cole said.

The Kiva, under Cole’s leadership, was awarded a $560,000 grant for start up costs by the Colorado Charter School Program, but it is contingent on being authorized to operate.

The grant money, along with the PPOR, will fund school operations for 2.5 years. But it can only be used for teachers and educational supplies like computers, and textbooks, not for facilities.

The Kiva is still looking for a location for their school.