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Pagosa Peak Open School Wins School Board Approval

The Pagosa Charter School Initiative (PCSI) board of directors, plus a dozen supportive members of the community, squeezed themselves into the cozy conference room at the Archuleta School District (ASD) administrative offices on Monday, November 14, to witness the School Board’s vote to approve the Pagosa Peak Open School — the first charter school ever to be authorized by the school district.

With only a single item on the agenda, the special meeting was short and sweet — compared to typical School Board meetings — and included all five School Board members: Greg Schick, Bruce Dryburgh, Brooks Lindner, Jason Peterson and, attending via telephone, Lisl Keuning. Board president Greg Schick began by reading aloud the resolution approving the new charter school, with the understanding that six “conditions” imposed unilaterally by the School Board would be negotiated in the coming weeks.

The school, which has yet to choose a specific location, plans to open its doors in the fall of 2017 serving a total of about 75 children in grades K-4. Additional grades will be added — one grade each year — until the school is serving Kindergarten through 8th grade. As a Colorado public school, tuition will be free and enrollment is open to all families within Archuleta County.

As part of its mission to offer an educational alternative, Pagosa Peak Open School will operate on a year-round calendar. The school will be guided by an independent non-profit board.

ASD received the school’s 452-page charter application on August 1, 2016.

The Pagosa Charter School Initiative (PCSI) board poses outside the ASD administrative offices with a copy of the signed School Board resolution. This founding board will form the core of the yet-to-be-formed Pagosa Peak Open School board of directors.

The Pagosa Charter School Initiative (PCSI) board members — from left, Chenni Hammon, Ursala Hudson, Kierstan Renner and Bill Hudson — pose outside the ASD administrative offices with a copy of the signed School Board resolution. This founding board will form the core of the yet-to-be-formed Pagosa Peak Open School board of directors.  Photo by Griselda Cervantes.

The conditions stipulated by the ASD School Board include a requirement that the yet-to-be-formed Pagosa Peak Open School board of directors raise an additional $175,000 in grants and donations during their first year of operation… or perhaps prior to their first year of operation? (I was frankly confused by the resolution’s language in that regard.) These funds would be in addition to the Per Pupil Revenue and grant funding already shown in the school’s six-year budget projections.

Other conditions included stipulations that the innovative “Project Based Learning” (PBL) model be more thoroughly described and delineated; that the soon-to-be-formed board of directors include a professional educator and a professional with a financial background; that the School Director have at least two years of experience as a PBL teacher or administrator or that at least 50 percent of the teachers have at least one year of experience as PBL teachers or administrators; that the School Director have at least five years experience as a school administrator; and that at least one teacher be a “Colorado licensed teacher.” (Charter schools are permitted, under Colorado state law, to hire highly qualified teachers who do not necessarily have Colorado teaching credentials.)

The charter school’s founding board is still waiting to hear the results of grant application submitted to the Colorado Department of Education back in October. The Colorado Charter Schools Program (CCSP) provides a grant and technical assistance for up to 3-years to new and expanding charter schools. Pagosa Peak Open School will use the grant to purchase computers, books, furniture and other necessary educational equipment.

The PCSI board plans to hold a community meeting in early January, to more fully explain their school’s mission and educational model to Archuleta County families. Enrollment, for grades Kindergarten through 4th grade, is expected to begin in January. If the school receives more applications than it can accommodate, they will hold a public lottery to complete the student selection.

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