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Chaos in the world brings uneasiness, but it also allows the opportunity for creativity and growth.
– Tom Barrett  
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  Volume No. 17 Issue No. 7 July 2020  

None Black Forest News   None Book Review   None Community Calendar   None Community Photos  
None Did You Know?   None FFPD News   None From the Publisher   None Marks Meanderings  
None Monkey Business   None News Briefs   None News From D 49   None People on the Plains  
None Pet Adoption Corner   None Pet Care   None Phun Photos   None Prairie Life  
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  October BOE meeting wrap-up
  By Lindsey Harrison

   All members of the El Paso County Colorado School District 49 Board of Education were present at the special meeting in October, except John Graham, vice president, who was absent with prior notice.
   Because of inclement weather, the regular meeting on Oct. 10 was cancelled and all actions items were moved to the special meeting on Oct. 23. At the special meeting, the BOE addressed the action items only, omitting the board update, chief officers’ update and open forum portions of the meeting.
   Marie LaVere-Wright, president, said the decision was made to omit some items to ensure all action items were voted on if the meeting needed to be wrapped up early because of declining weather conditions.
   Action items
   The BOE unanimously approved the following:
  • Accreditation of schools to remain in compliance with the Colorado State Board of Education
  • New and revised student participation fees for the 2019-2020 school year
  • Review of the following policies: safety drills; alcohol and drug-free workplace; truancy; open/closed campus; care of school property by students; weapons in school; parking lot searchers; student health services and records; physical examination of students; immunization of students; sharing of student records; and visitors to schools
  • The new director of data and performance job description
  • The new central registrar –- charter support job description, the cost of which will be shared between the district and the charter schools at 20 percent and 80 percent, respectively
  • The new BASE49 (Before and After School Expeditions) administrative assistant job description
  • Revisions to the following job descriptions: BASE49 assistant manager; BASE49 manager; BASE49 site aide; BASE49 site assistant; and BASE49 site leader
  • The new facilities project manager job description
  • Review of the following transportation policies: student transportation; district employee/driver requirements, training and responsibilities; drug and alcohol testing for commercial drivers/licensed employees; use of wireless communications devices while operating a district vehicle; and student transportation in private vehicles
  • Meal price increases of 35 cents for lunches and 10 cents for breakfasts to offset the financial impact of the minimum wage and Colorado Public Employee’s Retirement Association increases, while keeping the district in compliance with the Equity in School Lunch Pricing of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010
  • The new quantitative literacy with math capstone course at Sand Creek High School
  • The new student council leadership (honors) course at SCHS
  • Revisions to the policy regarding public participation at board meetings
  • Addition of a payroll technician to the business office staff

   Following the regular session, the BOE held an executive session for discussion of the chief education officer’s evaluation and performance review. No action was taken at that time.
   The next regular meeting of the BOE is Nov. 7 at 6:30 p.m. in the board room at the D 49 Education Services Center.
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  Charter schools defined - part 1
  By Lindsey Harrison

   According to the Colorado Department of Education’s website, charter schools in Colorado are public schools that operate via a contract –- or a charter -– with an authorizer like a local school district or the Colorado Charter School Institute. According to the website, there are 264 charter schools operating in Colorado during the 2019-2020 school year.
   What makes a charter school different from a traditional school?
   Bill Kottenstette, executive director for the schools of choice unit at the CDE, said charter schools are public schools overseen by a nonprofit board of directors and operated based on a charter between the nonprofit and either the school district’s board of education or the Colorado Charter School Institute.
   In 2004, House Bill 04-1362 created the Charter School Institute, giving it authority to approve or deny charter applications and oversee the charter schools it approves.
   To start a charter school, a group of people organize and write a plan for that school and then submit an application to operate it, Kottenstette said. “They usually submit the application to a school district. If that district has exclusive chartering authority, they would review the application and either approve or deny it,” he said. “They can also submit the application to the Colorado Charter School Institute who would then review that application.”
   A charter or contract is written between the district and the proposed charter school if the district accepts the application, he said. The approval criteria is the same whether a school applies to a district or to the CCSI, Kottenstette said.
   “The reviewers look for whether or not the school would be a quality school, if the plan is financially viable and if there is anything else, other conditions, the reviewers would want to have as part of the charter,” he said.
   Andy Franko, iConnect Zone leader for El Paso County Colorado School District 49, said the district, which has exclusive chartering authority, currently has seven charter schools with three additional charter schools that have been approved and scheduled to open to students in the fall of 2020.
   “We have had to deny some applications and a lot of that is a result of the applicants not being able to show a lot of evidence that it (charter school) will be of value to the D 49 community,” he said.
   Once a charter has been accepted, the school is required to choose students based on a lottery system, Kottenstette said. In traditional neighborhood schools, students are typically guaranteed enrollment in a school based on their address, he said. However, charter schools are a school of choice and need to have a non-discriminatory way of considering students for open seats.
   “Neighborhood preference could be included in the charter with the authorizer, allowing students in the immediate neighborhood preference over students in other neighborhoods,” he said. “But within that neighborhood, there would still need to be a random selection process.”
   Sometimes, preference can also be given to children of the founders of the school and for staff members’ children, but that would also need to be specified in the charter with the authorizer, Kottenstette said.
   There are many things to consider for parents interested in charter schools — what type of education the school offers, whether there is a bus route if the school is not located in their neighborhood, timelines and deadlines for registering for a charter school’s lottery and what waivers the school has received from the CDE, he said.
   Because charter schools are public schools, they cannot charge tuition, which is often a point of confusion for community members, Kottenstette said. The funding model for traditional schools and charter schools is similar and ultimately stems from the district’s per-pupil funding rate, which is the same for students in charter or traditional schools, he said.
   “For a traditional public school that is part of a district, funding per student goes to the district and the district determines how to spend those funds,” Kottenstette said. “For a charter school, the per-pupil funding goes to the district, assuming the district is the authorizer, and then the money is passed on to the charter school. The district can retain 5 percent for administrative purposes.”
   The biggest difference in financing strategies is under the charter model, most of the financial decisions are made at the school level; at a traditional school, the district decides how to allocate funds.
   Franko said some charter schools contract with a management organization, like a third-party educational service provider, to operate their school. When they choose that route, there is support from that provider similar to the support traditional schools receive from their districts, he said. Often those contracts come with a cost, however.
   “The perception is that a charter operated by a third party is receiving funding from that third party, but it is actually the opposite,” Franko said. “The school pays for that service. If they do get funding from that third party, it will usually be in the form of a loan, not a gift. The school will have to start paying it back. Sometimes, it is a grant but oftentimes it is loaned.”
   Legislation passed in 2017 requires districts to share funds it receives from mill levy overrides equally with charter schools, Franko said.
   Education standards
   The education standards for charter schools is the same for traditional schools, but charter schools can obtain waivers regarding how those standards are met, Kottenstette said.
   “Charter schools have the responsibility to meet state standards but they have flexibility in the curriculum they choose to offer,” he said. “You tend to see more diverse educational models with charter schools because those decision are made at the school level.”
   For example, take the D 49 traditional school versus the Pikes Peak School of Expeditionary Learning, a D 49 charter school. The traditional school is simply put, a standard public school model. PPSEL’s model focuses on learning experiences, which includes more hands-on lessons and field trips, Franco said.
   “For schools like D 49’s Rocky Mountain Classical Academy or Grand Peak Academy, the educational approach would not be significantly different from that which you would find in a traditional public school, but they do some things differently,” Franko said. “Maybe they focus on character education in a different way or they follow the classical education approach.”
   D 49’s commitment to creating a robust portfolio of school offerings for students includes charter schools and Franko said D 49 has benefited from having multiple charter school options.
   “One of the consistencies I see across charter and traditional public schools is that, in a lot of ways, they are composed of the same DNA,” Kottenstette said. “They are run by passionate educators whose hearts are in doing right by the families they serve. Although their models may look different, their missions are to do right by kids and families.”
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  Mobile Virtual Learning Lab ready to roll
  D 49 news release

   School District 49 along with the district’s Illuminating Goals and Nurturing Interests Towards Engagement (IGNITE) program hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony on Nov. 1 for the new zSpace bus/virtual learning lab. Funded by a Department of Defense Education Activity (grant, the zSpace project allowed D 49 to convert a retired school bus into a mobile learning lab, equipped with multiple workstations giving students the opportunity to learn in a 3D, virtual environment.
   D 49 is among 36 recipient districts from around the nation to earn the generous DoDEA grant in 2018.
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  D 49 trades school grand opening
  By Lindsey Harrison

   On Oct. 10, the El Paso County Colorado School District 49 staff, along with members of the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs and about 50 students from Patriot High School, attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Falcon Legacy Campus. The ceremony marked the official opening of the new Trades Building, which will expand programming opportunities for students interested in the Careers in Construction Pathway.
   The facility was funded in part by a $500,000 grant from the Falcon Community Builders for Classrooms organization and received strong support from the HBA.
   George Hess, founder of Vantage Homes and chairman of Careers in Colorado Construction, a program started by the HBA, said FCBC funded the project, driven by the HBA and actualized with the help of Ken Starkey from Wood Stone Construction.
   “Today, Careers in Colorado Construction has about 1,000 kids going to construction programs every day,” Hess said. “D 49 was the second district to do that and we are now represented in more than 20 schools across the state of Colorado. We appreciate that and appreciate the success you are all having.”
   David Nancarrow, director of communications, said the beginning-level construction classes have nine students enrolled this year, while 28 students are enrolled in the woodworking classes. “The main excitement of getting this building is for more students to participate in construction and expand the trades to include electric, HVAC and anything else needed to create a home or building,” he said.
   Additionally, Nancarrow said equipment for the program thus far has been provided by the district’s career and technical education department, but donations from the community are always welcome.
   Brett Ridgway, chief business officer for D 49, said, “No other district has this. FCBC, with this project, has now contributed over $7 million to the capital needs of District 49; and it has been a completely voluntary basis. They have not had any requirement, legal or otherwise, to do so; and they are great members of our community.”
   Jim Baumann, construction teacher at PHS, said he feels honored to have the new facility and plans to get his students working on a storage shed, contracted from one of the Board of Education members, right after fall break.
   “This facility was really built for the kids,” Hess said.
(From left to right) Pedro Almeida, D 49 chief operations officer; Ken Starkey from Wood Stone Construction; George Hess with the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs; John Graham, vice president of the D 49 Board of Education; Christina Vidovich, iConnect Zone operations administrator; Jim Baumann, Patriot High School construction teacher; Steve Gard, PHS principal; and Brett Ridgway, D 49 chief business officer, cut the ribbon at the grand opening of the Trades Building on the Falcon Legacy Campus.
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  Ribbon-cutting celebrates Grand Peak Academy
  By Lindsey Harrison

   On Oct. 25, Grand Peak Academy, a charter school in El Paso County Colorado School District 49, hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony at its new location at 7036 Cowpoke Road in Colorado Springs. Hundreds of GPA families and staff members, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers and members of the D 49 leadership and community attended the event.
   Chris Dempsey, president of GPA’s board of directors, said the school is essentially the same as it was when it was known as Imagine Classical Academy at its former location, but is no longer overseen by the Imagine Schools organization. The school is self-managed, and Dempsey said the new state-of-the-art building is larger by 25,000 square feet and provides more opportunities for the students.
   Scott Hunter, principal, said, “This is huge for our students and their families. The new location puts us at the heart of the neighborhood.”
   With 6 more acres of space and three times the amount of parking than the previous location, both Dempsey and Hunter agreed the move was the best thing for the school.  According to the website, the goal of the school is to provide a “Classical Education with a focus on Character Development and Core Virtues.” 
   The school officially opened its doors for the first days of school on Oct. 28; Hunter said the school boasts a student body of about 800 kids in kindergarten through eighth grade, up from the 680 students enrolled in the 2018-2019 school year.
   “We are going to be able to do so much more for the kids now,” Dempsey said.
Grand Peak Academy families filled the gymnasium at the Oct. 25 ribbon-cutting ceremony.
(From left to right): Stephen Teague, Grand Peak Academy board secretary; Scott Hunter, principal; Michael Phillipich, vice president; Chris Dempsey, president; Jennifer Reishus, treasurer; and Brandon Henry, communications director, cut the ribbon at the GPA grand opening ceremony.
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