Englewood charter school proposal unveiled

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Members of the Englewood Academy founding board of directors explained facts and answered questions about their proposal to establish a charter school in Englewood at a Nov. 13 public meeting.

The board of directors submitted the application to establish Englewood’s first charter school, which has not yet settled on a location, on Oct. 1. As part of the application process, the board is required to hold two public meetings.

About 50 people attended the Nov. 13 meeting, which was the first of two regarding establishment of a charter school in Englewood. The second meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Nov. 27 at Maddox Elementary School, 700 W. Mansfield Ave.

Englewood School Board members attended the Nov. 13 meeting to hear comments from the public, and they also will attend the Nov. 27 meeting. The board will hold a workshop on Nov. 27, following the meeting, to discuss the charter school proposal.

The school board is tentatively set to make a decision on the application at its Dec. 11 meeting.

The proposal is for the charter school to have at least 200 students attending kindergarten through fifth grade when it opens in August 2013. Plans for expansion call for the school to eventually serve 420 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

At the Nov. 13 meeting, the charter school board members made a presentation and took questions from the audience.

Former Englewood teacher Mary Zachariah, charter school founding board president, was the first to speak about the charter school.

“Englewood Academy will create a school of choice that offers a program based on core knowledge, offering an alternative educational opportunity for Englewood students,” she said. “It would be a public school and, like public schools, students will not be charged tuition to attend charter school classes.” Plans call for the curriculum to include all core subjects as well as art, music and physical education. Spanish instruction would begin in kindergarten and continue through all grades.

Sandy Schoob, an academy board member, talked about financing for the school. She said the school would receive the state per-pupil allocation as the foundation of the budget needed to pay staff and provide a facility for the school. She said Englewood Academy is also applying for a state grant program to help charter schools get started and a private grant program.

“We do not have a location yet but we are looking at several different buildings. But we can’t move forward until we know the application has been approved,” she said. “It is our goal to establish this school in Englewood.”

Questions from the audience included an inquiry about what happens if the project doesn’t have 200 students when it is time to open.

Board member Randy DeHuff said if the school doesn’t have 200 students enrolled, it won’t open. He said the requirement is that the school will have 80 percent of the target number signed up by May or June.

The proponents added that plans are to advertise Englewood Academy in nearby areas and hopefully attract students who are on the lengthy waiting lists to attend charter schools like Littleton Academy.

In response to a question about why there is a need for a charter school in Englewood, Matt Whipple said the desire is to offer an educational option for students.

“We know there are parents enrolling their students in school outside the district because Englewood’s test scores are low,” he said. “We are not looking to damage the district and we aren’t attacking the district. Actually, we will be a plus for the district because traditionally charter school test scores are higher than public schools so it will raise district overall scores.”

When it was time for members of the audience to make comments to the school board, Dana Murhree said she is a strong supporter of charter schools.

“I am a mom of two students who attended charter school in Monument,” she said. “I believe charter schools are great through the eighth grade, but I don’t favor charter high schools. We live here now and my two children are in Englewood schools. I will say charter school prepared them well for entering classes here.”

Englewood resident Tena Prang then commented that, while options are good, she is concerned that the charter school’s proposed budget doesn’t work.

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