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COLORADO: New charter school hopes to open fall 2014

spanish-english-charter-school-santa-rosaPlans for a fifth charter school in Greeley are moving along quickly.

It now has a name and board of directors, and curriculum and location are in the works.

“We put together a strong leadership team — outside of the board — who we have relied on to help us move forward with larger ideas,” said Rene Gonzalez , co-president of the school’s board of directors.

Salida del Sol Academy, which is the Spanish phrase meaning sunrise, will be located east of 8th Avenue and have a multilingual focus. The name was chosen to honor the Sunrise community near Jefferson High School, Gonzalez said.

In January, organizers secured a $3,000 grant from the Colorado League of Charter Schools, a support group for charter schools, to explore its feasibility. Gonzalez said there was overwhelming response from the community.

Members of the board include individuals with experience in education, finance and security, as well as parents. Gonzalez, a doctoral candidate in education and Regis University faculty member, is co-president with Rebecca Koppes Conway , a Weld District Court magistrate and original member of the University Schools Board of Governors.

Gonzalez said they are still finalizing curriculum and delivery methods, but they have looked at several dual-language designs, including Harris Bilingual Immersion Academy in Fort Collins and Dual Immersion Academy in Grand Junction. Both schools have successful track records.

Harris alternates Spanish and English instruction weekly. The student body is 55 percent English language learners and 55 percent qualify for free lunches. It scored 76, 79 and 59 on math, reading and writing TCAPs, respectively, and is accredited as a performance school, which is the highest accreditation a district can give a school.

Dual Immersion alternates instruction daily, with morning classes in one language and afternoon classes in the other; 73 percent of students are English language learners and 59 percent are on free lunches. It scored 53, 58 and 35 on TCAPs in math, reading and writing, respectively. It is also a performance school.

Both schools outscore all Greeley-Evans School District 6 schools where more than 30 percent of students are English language learners and more than 50 percent are on free lunches.

“There are some statistics behind it,” Gonzalez said. “But we are closely following established schools and how successful they’ve been.”

He said the hope is to have a 50-50 split among English language learners and native English speakers who want to be immersed in Spanish.

“It’s a positive dynamic to learn from each other,” Gonzalez said. “We are not wanting just folks that are ELL, we are promoting the idea to parents who want their children to have a second language to be a part of this as well.”

Board members have also looked at Yes Prep in Texas and UNO in Chicago, although standardized test scores are not comparable with out of state schools.

District 6 previously used a dual-language approach but changed to immersion several years ago because Superintendent Ranelle Lang said it was not improving test scores. However, Doug Lidiak, District 6 Board of Education president, said it may be worth looking at again.

“I don’t know that we can really take that position,” he said about dual-language being ineffective. “I think in some ways dual-language support and curriculum may not have been as valued by our community as it would be today given the competitive nature of schools.”

However, Lidiak added that although the desire to open in east Greeley is admirable, he is worried about the number of students going to charter schools, especially after the 2012 opening of Union Colony Elementary, which has 450 kids, and the 2013 expansion of University Schools, which will take another 500, bumping the number of district students in charter schools to 20 percent.

“We need to see how much they are valued by their neighbors and local community and their parents,” Lidiak said. “I have a general concern of capacity. The amount of charter schools that we do support in this district is having significant impact on each of our charters as well as our district in filling those seats.”

Lidiak also said the negative perception of the district, which may be causing more transfers to charter schools, is not fair.

“I would invite our community to take a new look at Bella Romero and Maplewood and Centennial and what’s occurring in all our elementary (schools) and what they’re accomplishing,” he said. “It’s very amazing.”

Gonzalez said the District 6 board should see an application by July for a fall 2014 opening. Board members are currently finalizing curriculum and looking at locations.

“Right now, we really need to focus on the parents,” he said. “There is already a buzz, we just need to get out to community places to give them the information.”

Source: The Tribune – by Sherrie Peif

View more articles on Colorado charter schools


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This entry was posted on March 10, 2013 by in Charter Schools, Colorado and tagged , , .


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