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El Paso County Colorado District 49

New charter school delays opening

Falcon School District 49ís newest school has postponed opening its doors because of concerns about the facility where it would have been housed ñ and student enrollment.The D 49 board of education approved the Valiant Academy Charter School, the districtís 23rd school, in February. According to the March issue of The New Falcon Herald, the school was slated to open at the Hilltop Baptist Church in Colorado Springs for the 2014-2015 school year.William Yerger, a founder of the Valiant Academy, said the schoolís board of directors decided to delay opening the school until the 2015-2016 school year because of two issues: low enrollment numbers and the need to equip the church with a sprinkler system.ìWe needed to reach a certain enrollment number before we opened, and we didnít hit that number,î Yerger said. To open, they needed about 220 students and only 100 have enrolled, he said.ìWe would also have to install a sprinkler system throughout the entire building,î Yerger said. ìThe estimate was $250,000. That was a deal breaker right there.îYerger said the school needed to enroll about 220 students but have only 100.When Valiant Academy opens its doors, it will be a project-based learning school, Yerger said. ìI was the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) coordinator for Skyview Middle School, and I was looking for engaging ways to learn and teach staff and students,î he said. ìI made a visit out to High Tech High (Gary and Jerri-Ann High Tech High Charter School) in San Diego. It was the most amazing school Iíve ever been to. Everything they did was through a real project, not just arbitrarily.ìThey (High Tech High) did things they had to learn in a real way. They learned about reading and writing through journalism. They learned about math through construction and engineering. I did a two-year pilot program at Skyview in science, and the kids loved it. It was amazing.îYerger said the success of High Tech High inspired him to start a project-based learning school from the ground up. ìI see pockets of this (project-based learning) happening but in order for it to be really effective, you need an entire school to do it,î he said. ìItís hard to get an entire staff to change the way they teach. Charter schools allow you to start off fresh and have people be invested in that way of teaching.îThe school will initially open for kindergarten through seventh grade but will eventually expand through 12th grade, he said. ìWe will be the first K through 12 project-based learning school in the city,î Yerger said.While the schoolís location is unknown at this time, Yerger said, ìWe should definitely be able to open up next year (2015-2016). Our big push right now is to form a solid parent group to assist with the enrollment process. The response from parents is that theyíre excited about it because they are looking for a meaningful education for their kids. Their students are bored in school right now.î

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