Charter school remains under consideration

School board member doesn't think speedy approval is feasible; anticipates 2004 opening

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Moffat County School Board President Phil Hastings told a group of eight Dinosaur residents Monday that he wanted to see a charter school in Dinosaur.

But said he was not sure if it's feasible for this coming school year.

"I would like to see a charter school in Dinosaur and I would like to see it succeed," he said. "But I don't see us getting it done for the 2003-2004 school year. I can see us getting it done for 2004-2005."

Hastings comment came in the midst of a 2-hour discussion at a board meeting Monday night.

Board members went through a 40-page application packet page by page with Dinosaur residents pursuing a charter in their community. The board did so two months after it voted to close the school in Dinosaur and bus students to Rangely.

Prior to the board's April decision to close the school for the upcoming school year, Dinosaur Mayor Richard Blakley, anticipating that the board might choose to close the small community's school, began investigating what it would take to form a charter school in Dinosaur.

Since that April decision, he and a volunteer committee have been scrambling to get the necessary information together to apply for a charter.

With the late decision to close the school, the committee was forced to cram an application process, which normally takes a year, into less than two months.

And should their application be denied at a June 16 meeting, the date set to make a decision, it will likely be because of a lack of time.

Board members cited several concerns they had to the committee regarding the application that was submitted to the district last week, and some of the discrepancies it contained.

Several budgetary items were discussed including costs for food service, maintenance and technology.

"You come up with an excess of $12,000," Hastings told the committee. "I come up with a deficit of $25,000."

Food service wasn't even included in the first budget provided to the board, but Blakley, a restaurant owner, said he and others in the community would be willing to volunteer those services at first.

Blakley admitted that the group was still making changes to the application at 5 p.m., an hour and a half before the board meeting was scheduled to start.

Committee members said the last minute changes were made to address questions posed by Superintendent Pete Bergmann, who received a copy of the application last week and responded with items he thought needed to be addressed.

Another concern of the board was the number of students projected to attend the school the coming school year.

The committee had submitted letters of intent signed by local residents indicating that 22 students would attend the school this fall.

But in follow up calls made by the district to those families, a district representative was only able to verify that six of those students would be attending the school at the start of this school year.

Blakley said he believed that a Dinosaur resident was led to believe that a charter school would not be in place in Dinosaur next year, and in turn said they intended on sending their children to Rangely.

That rumor was circulated through the community causing confusion, he said.

Bergmann said the school district representative asked to make the calls was not given any instructions other than to verify that families in Dinosaur did indeed intend on sending their children to Dinosaur.

"We were just trying to get as accurate of information to the board as possible," he said.

After a brief debate on the matter, Hastings brought the discussion to a halt.

"I would like to get off of this subject because none of the parties being discussed are present," he said.

Bergmann also expressed concerns about the lack of clarity in outlining curriculum goals for the school.

But those from Dinosaur said they have not had time to do everything the district is requesting, and asked that the district be willing to cooperate with them to get the school going this year.

Some on the school district side suggested the committee waits a year and pursues the application next fall.

But board member John Wellman said he understood why that might not be the best option.

"I'm concerned about the rushed process but it won't do the kids a lot of good to go to Rangely this year then get pulled back into Dinosaur next year," Wellman said.

The committee thinks it will be able to staff the school.

It has proposed that a full-time kindergarten through third grade teacher be hired and a full-time aide be hired for the same age group.

It also proposed that a full-time teacher/administrator be hired for fourth through sixth grade.

A resume for the teacher/administrator position from Dinosaur resident Dana Forbes was submitted along with the application packet to the board.

Forbes has about 20 years of teaching experience.

"I admire your tenacity," board member Jerry Magas told the group. "You've done very well to get things going."

They've gotten things going, but the questioned remained Monday night, have they gotten things going fast enough?

The board will decide at a June 16 meeting.

"We are trying to condense a very complicated process into a very short time span that normally takes a year to do," Bergmann said. "That is my concern."

Josh Nichols can be reached at 824-7031 or jnichols@craigdailypress.com.

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