Charter school OK’d, with conditions

Board votes 7-0, but is concerned about money

A reluctant Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 school board voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a local charter school application, pending four provisions.

One by one, the seven school board members at Tuesday’s meeting expressed concerns over the Children’s Kiva Montessori Charter School application. All said they believed the charter school would place burdens on the district’s fiscally strapped budget.

“It’s clearly going to hurt in a financial perspective,” said board member Jack Schuenemeyer.

“Funding is going to be diverted from the district,” said board member Brian Demby.

School board president Tim Lanier said he felt the board was cornered, citing the state has a history of overriding local opposition to charter school applications.

“The charter school has a great educational model, but I’m in opposition due to the fiscal impacts it will have on the district,” he said.

According to Superintendent Alex Carter, the charter school could reduce district revenue by more than $200,000 in the first year. That lost revenue, he said, was equal to funding four new staff members.

Despite the financial concerns, the Children’s Kiva Montessori School application was approved for four years, pending four stipulations:

A charter school contract must be negotiated by April 1.

A signed lease for the Beech Street schoolhouse must be made by July 1.

A majority of the charter’s board of directors is prohibited from serving on the board of the existing Children’s Kiva Preschool.

The charter’s recruitment, enrollment and retention plan must be submitted by April 1.

Anna Cole, a Kiva board member spearheading the charter school effort, said organizers will achieve the district’s expectations.

“We will be able to meet the district’s stipulations, no problem,” said Cole.

“We’re excited,” she added in response to the board’s conditional approval. “We remain committed to working collaboratively with the Re-1 district.”

Cole said the Children’s Kiva Montesorri Charter School would open this fall, serving a maximum of 64 children in grades K-6 in its first year. The school is expected to grow to include a middle school program and serve more than 100 students within three years, she said.

Montessori instruction employs a 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.

Charter schools 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,” said Cole. “It is where Colorado is heading.”

Under Cole’s leadership, the charter school has already secured a $560,000 grant for start up costs from the Colorado Charter School Program.