Dinosaur charter school to be considered next week

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The application for a Dinosaur community charter school was due today and a representative on a committee to open a charter school next year said he is confident that school will be in session next fall.

"It's going to go," said Dinosaur resident Bob Puck. "The school will be opening in September."

But that's if the Moffat County School Board of Education approves the application submitted today by Puck and the rest of the committee to start a charter school in Dinosaur.

A public hearing will be held Monday to discuss the proposal. And a follow-up public hearing will be held June 16 at which time the board will make a decision on whether to approve the application.

Moffat County School Superintendent Pete Bergmann said the board will be forced to make a quick decision.

"Ordinarily this is a year-long process and they're working under a gun," Bergmann said. "The board wants to make sure it supports the Dinosaur residents' efforts but wants to make sure it's done right also."

Normally charter school applications are due on Oct. 1 the year before the school is scheduled to open. But circumstances did not allow that to happen in this case because of the April decision by the board to close Dinosaur Elementary School. Exceptions can be made at the state level to waive that deadline in instances such as the one in Dinosaur.

The committee in Dinosaur chose to pursue charter designation after the board of education voted to close the elementary school because of declining enrollment.

If the board were to deny the application, the decision could be appealed to the state Board of Education.

If the state board upholds the appeal, it goes back to the local school board. If the local school board denies the application a second time, it goes back to the state for a final decision.

Bergmann said the application presented today will be carefully assessed.

"They need to make sure they have solid numbers for enrollment purposes," Bergmann said.

And several questions will have to be asked, he said.

"Have they presented a plan that looks like they will have a quality school for the students of Dinosaur?" Bergmann said.

If a charter school is formed, 95 percent of the per-pupil funding is provided by the local school district, which receives per-pupil funding from the state. But the local community that formed the charter, in this case, Dinosaur, would be in charge of its own by-laws and hiring.

In essence, Dinosaur would be creating its own school district, Bergmann said.

If the charter were approved, Bergmann said, the community would then have the option of using the Moffat County school policies and curriculum.

Puck estimated enrollment for next year is 22 students, up from the eight that had been projected by school administrators when the Moffat County Board of Education voted to close the elementary school.

"I don't really know what to put on that," Puck said of the difference in projections. "There were some teachers there people didn't like."

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

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