Dinosaur charter school at risk to be closed
Dinosaur Community Charter school could be shut down in as little as two weeks for not complying with state and local requirements.
The Moffat County School District Board of Education on Thursday gave the charter school until Nov. 9 to have a plan in place to provide services to students in need of speech and language therapy. On Nov. 10, the board will decide whether to close the school, and, if so, in what time frame.
“It’s not that we don’t think there’s an ideal learning environment, it’s because they’re not meeting state and federal mandates,” Board President John Wellman said.
The school district oversees the charter school and has the ultimate responsibility of ensuring all Moffat County students have access to a quality education and associated services. The charter school’s board has signed a contract with the school district agreeing to provide those services.
The board is violating the contract by not having speech and language services available.
“They have to come into compliance,” district Superintendent Pete Bergmann said. “There’s no wiggle room here.”
The charter school has contracted with Horizons Specialized Services to provide speech and language assessments.
Three of the charter school’s 52 students need the services, and district Assistant Superintendent Joel Sheridan said he thinks that not all students eligible students have been identified.
“Special-education law is one of the more absolute,” Sheridan said. “It’s one of the more non-negotiable.”
The charter school is also being required to present a plan on Nov. 9 to make up for the services identified students have not had since school started Aug. 22. If that’s not done, the school district will withhold $10,000 from the charter school to protect the district from any claims parents might make because those services were lacking.
The charter school also does not have an occupational therapist. That’s not as critical of a violation, Sheridan said, because no charter school students have been identified as needing those services. But the lack also means students aren’t being assessed to determine whether they need those services, he said.
The school district’s attorney has recommended officials take immediate steps to remedy the problem.
Dinosaur’s remote location and small size makes it difficult to recruit and retain staff, Sheridan said.
“Quite frankly, that’s the issue we had,” he said. “To provide continuous, highly qualified, appropriate staff (in Dinosaur) is an almost impossible task. We were taking a van of specialists out there once a month.”
The school district closed the Dinosaur school after the 2002-2003 school year. It opened as a charter school in 2004.
Officials reasoned it was easier to send Dinosaur students 20 miles to Rangely than to fight to provide mandated services, Sheridan said.
This isn’t the first time the charter school has been out of compliance with its contract with the school district. The school has not been in compliance since it opened a year and a half ago. Staffing has nearly always been the problem, from filling required positions to demonstrating that staff members are qualified.
Many parents, though, have said they’d rather home school their children rather than send them to Rangely. A majority of the school’s 52 students come from the Rangely or Vernal, Utah, areas seeking a smaller school with more options for one-on-one attention.
The school board signed off earlier this year on the charter school’s request to be governed by the state charter school association. It could take up to a year for the state to accept the charter school.
“(Overseeing the charter school) is much more time consuming than running the school ourselves,” Sheridan said.
Dinosaur Community Charter School Principal Dana Forbes is out of town, and no other school representative attended Thursday’s meeting.
Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or email@example.com.
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