Dinosaur school works on deal with Web academy

Officials from the Moffat County School District and the Dinosaur Community Charter School said that a deal is imminent that would end a two-year partnership between the two educational institutions.

The Moffat County School Board delayed a decision on the Dinosaur school's charter, which they have considered revoking in recent weeks because of the school's continuing failure to comply with state and federal guidelines. School Board President Jo Ann Baxter said she hoped to take final action on the school at the board's August meeting.

"Everything is moving along, just not quite fast enough for us to take definitive action this evening," Baxter said to the board Thursday night.

Richard Blakely, president of the Dinosaur School Board, said that district officials have an agreement in the works that would bring Dinosaur under the banner of the Hope Online Learning Academy. Hope Online Learning Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school offered through the Vilas School District in southeast Colorado.

Under Hope Online, Dinosaur will be able to expand to a kindergarten through 12th-grade format. Five high school students have already applied to join the school, Blakely said.

Community members in Dinosaur are excited about the change, the Dinosaur board president said, but they are reserving judgment until they "see how it works out."

Moffat County Superintendent Pete Bergmann said he's spoken to a lead administrator at Hope Online and is encouraged that a deal with Dinosaur will be met.

"(They are) very encouraged and (they've said) there is absolutely no reason why this can't work. ... We don't see any insurmountable glitches in arriving at an agreement."

Bergmann said the potential agreement between Dinosaur and Hope Online solves two dilemmas: keeping a school available in Dinosaur and ending mounting frustrations between Moffat County and the charter school.

"I think, once again, it is a win-win situation," he said. "I want to make clear that this is a potential permanent solution."

It also puts Dinosaur in the hands of an "outfit set up and designed to deliver this type of program."

Baxter said an agreement should be reached next month, a timeframe that won't have negative impacts on Dinosaur students starting school.

"This will not keep the children of Dinosaur from starting school at an appropriate date," she said.

Hope Online will provide computers for every student at Dinosaur -- Blakely said school officials are arranging for 30 computers -- an online curriculum and access to mentoring.

Also, Blakely said Hope Online would send a teacher to Dinosaur once a week for the first two to three months to monitor the education and operation.

Moffat County officials said that Hope Online officials have indicated they target Aug. 15 as the goal to have Dinosaur up and running.

The Dinosaur school has been under scrutiny since Moffat County board members revoked its charter in November 2005 for noncompliance with state and federal laws.

The Colorado State Charter Institute denied the school's application for charter, listing seven criteria the school had not met.

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