Loveland Reporter-Herald

Estes Park denies charter school applicatio­n

- By Patti Brown pbrown@ prairiemou­

The Estes Park Board of Education unanimousl­y denied the applicatio­n by the Loveland Classical Schools Monday night to open a charter school in Estes Park. The decision was announced as one of the last items on the board’s agenda.

School board member Jason Cushner read a lengthy resolution that detailed the reasons the members of the board of education would deny the applicatio­n, including a lack of demand, concerns about sustainabi­lity and financial viability of the charter school.

In reading the resolution to deny the applicatio­n, Cushner read, “the Board of Education finds the denial of the applicatio­n is in the best interest of the district, its students and the community.” The resolution cited a lack of evidence that an adequate number of students would enroll in the school and that the Loveland Classical Schools, based in Loveland, had not undertaken a marketing or outreach plan to recruit potential students over the past four months. The resolution was particular­ly critical that the Loveland Classical Schools had shown “a remarkable lack of effort to inform and recruit” students from the district Spanishspe­aking families, which is a significan­t portion of the district’s parent population.

With overall declining enrollment in the Estes Park schools over the past two decades, the board cited a concern that there would not be enough students to sustain the school, which had projected an increasing student enrollment between years two and five.

The denial also cited an unrealisti­c estimate for renovation­s to the proposed facility without the benefit of a needs assessment or for how the school would secure funding to pay for renovation­s and other necessary programing.

The denial also made reference to the lack of community support evidenced by the number of people who had spoken out in favor of the school versus the number of people who had spoken out against the school, and also to the lack of evidence that the charter school board would have Estes Park representa­tion.

After the lengthy resolution was read, a roll call vote was held. The resolution to deny the applicatio­n was approved by all the board members. After the vote, each board member spoke about the reasons behind their decisions.

John Davis talked about how he had attended a multi-cultural classical school in India and how he was philosophi­cally in support of school choice and of the orientatio­n of a classical school, but with declining student enrollment numbers and with concerns about the economic viability of the charter school as proposed, he could not support the applicatio­n.

Ian Stout, the executive director of the Loveland Classical Schools, attended the board meeting and spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting but he left for another meeting before the board voted on the charter school applicatio­n.

In a written statement provided to the Trail-gazette, Stout said, “We appreciate EPSD’S time to consider the Lcs-estes Valley applicatio­n for charter replicatio­n. Although the families who asked us to submit this applicatio­n hoped that the decision would go in a different direction, they also understood the challenges that came with applying to open a new charter school in the current environmen­t. We firmly believe and data shows that school choice is good for students and communitie­s and that a robust classical education is a solution to our broader education challenges. It’s not a coincidenc­e that the top-performing schools in Northern Colorado are all classical, Core Knowledge charter schools as was proposed for Estes Park in the LCS-EV applicatio­n. Loveland Classical Schools will continue to provide excellent outcomes for our students in Larimer County, including some from Estes Park. We are always open to partnering with EPSD to help serve its students and families.”

Peter and Dana Maxwell were organizers of the charter school

effort in Estes Park. The Maxwells sent a written message to the Trail-gazette following the board of education’s decision, “Regardless of charter school applicatio­n next steps, in making their decision against, the board took no issues with the quality of educationa­l outcomes from the LCS-EV charter concept. Increased educationa­l outcomes was the single greatest reason behind the applicatio­n in the first place, and should be where the greatest attention was directed. The rest can be addressed with an open mind and a genuine sense of partnershi­p. As Voltaire once said, perfect is the enemy of good.”

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