A Durango School District 9-R advisory committee Tuesday threw a temporary barrier in the path of a community group that wanted to open a new K-5 charter school this fall.
The District Advisory and Accountability Committee said it couldn’t recommend that the board approve the application of the Durango Schools of Choice.
Committee member Patrick Flores cited “inconsistencies and omissions in data and information.” The biggest issue was the budget, which he said didn’t meet expectations. Flores said outside the board chamber that the committee followed the extensive “rubric” of the League of Charter Schools in making its recommendation.
Representatives of Durango Schools of Choice agreed to put off the planned opening of The Juniper School from this fall to the 2016-2017 school year. But they asked the district to approve the application, which would lend weight to fundraising efforts and the ability to obtain state charter school startup grants.
Board members appeared amenable to the request. They asked Superintendent Dan Snowberger to bring to their March 31 meeting conditions that charter school proponents would have to meet for approval of their application.
If the conditions are met, the process toward granting a charter would begin.
Several community members, at least a couple of them with long years of experience in nontraditional education, said The Juniper School is much needed. One said the need is “urgent.”
A mother with two boys in 9-R schools said, “It’s in Durango’s DNA to be innovative.” Sometimes, she said, it’s necessary to simply push the fledgling from the nest and let it fly.
Durango Schools of Choice, a steering committee comprised of educators and parents, is looking for nontraditional approaches to elementary education.
Instruction would turn from the traditional-classroom model in which teacher talks and students listen. Instead, students would engage in active, hands-on activities aimed at piquing their imagination and intellect. They would be held to fulfilling goals of a contract worked out by their parents and teachers.
A Juniper School board member said 163 families already have entered the lottery to win a slot for a child. The number is 109 percent of capacity, she said.
Durango School District 9-R has exclusive authority to charter schools locally. Such was not the case with Animas High School and Mountain Middle School, which received their charters from a state organization. The chartering authority of 9-R had lapsed.
If The Juniper School wins approval, it will be the newest campus under 9-R jurisdiction.