Alternative school to become charter |

Alternative school to become charter

Jennifer Davoren

The Aspen Community School, an alternative school for kindergarten through eighth-grade students in Woody Creek, will become a charter school within the Aspen School District starting next year.

Although the move was approved during a public discussion by the Aspen School Board last Monday, the official approval will take place during the board’s Feb. 20 meeting, where the charter is on the “consent agenda.”

“It’s been through the discussions. All that’s left is the formality,” said Tom Farrell, superintendent of the Aspen School District.

The Aspen Community School (ACS) has operated under a charter with the Roaring Fork School District since 1995. However, the school administration was planning to move under the Aspen district’s wing for some time, said David Throgmorton, executive director for COMPASS, the school’s parent organization.

“When the charter was first laid five years ago, it said we would eventually move to the Aspen School District,” he said. “The Aspen schools are right there. It’s a natural move.”

The community school’s administration first approached the school board last fall about the possibility of a new charter, said Augie Reno, the board’s assistant secretary and treasurer.

An accountability committee made up of administrative staff, school staff and other community members was created to evaluate the possibility of the ACS charter.

“The school district put together a list of questions and concerns we wanted them to deal with, like financing and testing,” Reno said.

One concern was over funding for the district’s newest branch.

“It was a concern that the district wouldn’t be burdened, not only with the teaching aspect but with facilities,” Reno said.

Any additional funding needed to pay for the 114 new students to be added to the Aspen School District will not come at the expense of the Aspen public schools, said Farrell. Instead, state dollars for the community school will be divided up, with a portion diverted to the district for administrative duties.

“It won’t take money from the public school budget,” Farrell said.

Day-to-day operations at the ACS will also not be affected by the change, officials said. Instead, the move will open up a variety of opportunities for Aspen students, Reno said.

“It will be an alternative school for the students of this district,” he said. “If they want, they have that option if they don’t want the traditional curriculum.”

The move will allow Aspen’s younger students to receive a more diverse education, Throgmorton said.

“I think it’s going to open up more collaborative opportunities,” he said. “It wouldn’t be surprising to see students come back and forth between the schools.”

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