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Durango charter Juniper School to delay opening a year

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Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016 3:01 AM
Mccullough-VanBuskirk

Board members for the charter Juniper School announced Tuesday they are delaying the school’s opening until fall 2017.

The announcement was made at the Durango School District 9-R board work session Tuesday evening. The district is the chartering institution for Juniper.

The school, a K-5 Montessori-project-based learning model, was originally scheduled to open in fall 2016, but after organizers failed to get a $200,000 start-up grant from the Colorado Department of Education in November, they had to rethink their budget, said Katie Mccullough-VanBuskirk, a founding board member for Juniper School and a kindergarten teacher at Needham Elementary School.

“We’ve cut as much as we can without compromising quality or our mission,” she said. “We looked at going smaller or restructuring the school, but it wasn’t enough.”

The board kicked off its fundraising campaign in early December.

“We got a great response, but it wasn’t enough,” Mccullough-VanBuskirk said. “For the fiduciary responsibility to our school, to 9-R, to our families, we want to start strong and stay strong. At this point, we just don’t have it.”

The contract with 9-R and the board’s resolution approving it may require some tweaking, which will be brought back to the board, probably at the meeting Jan. 26.

“It gives me more confidence in you,” Board Vice President Nancy Stubbs said, “that you would make this decision and not just barge ahead.”

The group has already surmounted several hurdles and this is just one more, Mccullough-VanBuskirk said.

“We’re really grateful for the support we’ve received from the community and you,” she said to the board. “We could have jumped in with a lot of unknowns this year, but taking the time to do more fundraising and grant writing is the only way to be fiscally sound, so we decided to wait.”

Board members will be at the Education Fair on Thursday night and plan to continue connecting with the community to introduce their new school, Mccullough-VanBuskirk said.

And in the end, it’s only a short postponement, board member Robin Richardson said.

“We see this as a school for the next 100 years,” she said, “so waiting one more year is small in that context.”

abutler@durangoherald.com

An earlier version of this story misattributed quotes from Katie Mccullough-VanBuskirk, a founding board member for Juniper School and a kindergarten teacher at Needham Elementary School.

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