Closing deferred for school |

Closing deferred for school

Dinosaur facility gets reprieve

After months of facing closure, Dinosaur’s only school got another reprieve when Moffat County School District officials voted Thursday to defer revoking its charter.

But if Dinosaur Community Charter School intends to finish out the school year, it must work to become a part of another school district or the responsibility of a state chartering authority.

The school, with about 36 students, also must remedy deficiencies in its special education program to comply with state and federal laws, said members of the Moffat County School District Board of Education.

The school district oversees the charter school. For more than a year, the Dinosaur school has struggled to comply with state and federal laws requiring it to have qualified staff to teach special education students.

In late October, school district officials warned that the school could close in as little as two weeks for not complying with state, federal and local requirements.

On Thursday, in a 6-1 vote, the school board passed the resolution to defer the revocation of the school’s charter. Board member Trish Snyder voted against the resolution.

The board’s decision gives hope to the Dinosaur school, officials say.

In late October, the board warned the charter school that it could close in a matter of weeks if it didn’t have a plan in place to provide services to students in need of speech and language therapy.

The school still has not remedied its deficiencies, school board officials said.

The board’s decision to defer revoking the school’s charter came after administrators and legal counsel from the Moffat County School District and the charter school met last week for six hours. Officials were able to explore alternatives for Dinosaur, district Superintendent Pete Bergmann said.

Those alternatives include Dinosaur becoming part of the Rangely school district, which has special education services. Or Dinosaur could become the responsibility of the State Charter Institute.

Lawmakers created the Charter School Institute in 2004. Its has the authority to approve or deny charter school applications, monitor operations of its members and assist in conversion of a district charter school to one overseen by the institute.

Dinosaur Community Charter School Principal Dana Forbes said he was pleased with the school board’s resolution.

“We felt all along having the school be able to finish the year certainly was the fair thing to do,” Forbes said. “It was good to sit down with the Craig administration and board and hammer out issues we couldn’t get done long distance.”

Dinosaur is about 90 miles east of Craig.

Forbes said the school is more likely to join the Charter School Institute than the Rangely school district.

The school district doesn’t want to close the charter school, Bergmann said. But it has no choice but to ensure that schools within the district comply with laws. As Dinosaur works to find another chartering organization, the school district will continue to accept responsibility of the school, he said.

“We don’t want to shut the school down and therefore eliminate opportunities,” Bergmann said Friday.

But if Dinosaur can’t find a new chartering authority or comply with laws, the board will revoke its charter, Bergmann said.

The charter school has been out of compliance since it opened 18 months ago. All along, staffing has been problem. Attracting qualified staff to a remote town isn’t easy, school officials have said.

The school district closed the Dinosaur school after the 2002-2003 school year. At the time, the school district reasoned it was easier to send students to Rangely, which is 20 miles from Dinosaur, than to struggle to provide mandated services.

The district opened a charter school in 2004.

The school board has imposed a Jan. 13 deadline for the charter school to submit evidence it is working to find another chartering authority.

“This buys them more time,” Bergmann said. “We will continue to work with them to try come into compliance and offer the highest quality services possible for the students.”

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