Aspen hears charter school pitch
Some of the valley’s high school students would be better served by an alternative school, say proponents of a charter school targeted for Basalt.
But Basalt High School administrators say an alternative high school would strip them of students, translating into a loss of tax dollars their school needs to sustain its programs.
“It would be very damaging to our school,” said Basalt Assistant Principal Paul Kain said.
At an Aspen School Board meeting last night, George Stranahan, former executive director of COMPASS, described his vision for the school. COMPASS oversees the valley’s two existing charter schools and is proposing the high school.
The high school would likely be in Basalt, where a family is offering a deal on some land. Hopefully, community donations would pay for the building, Stranahan said.
It would be open to all students, from Aspen to Rifle, but would only accept 100 enrollees.
The school year would be 12 months, but students would only be required to attend 180 days – what the state requires.
From its bricks and mortar to its philosophy, parents would significantly shape the school, according to Stranahan.
“It would focus on making the world a better place within driving range,” Stranahan told the board. “The theme would be social justice.”
When asked later to define social justice, Stranahan replied, “Whatever,” throwing his hands in the air. “They’ll have to work on that.”
The year-round school would allow ski and snowboard racers to attend school between April and November – the months they are not racing.
“We’re trying to seriously address the needs of the ski racing community here,” Stranahan said.
There are 68 charter schools statewide. Since the Colorado Legislature began allowing charter schools in 1993, about a dozen a year have opened.
Colorado charter schools are publicly funded, yet are semi-autonomous while working under agreement with a school district, said Jim Griff, director of Colorado League of Charter Schools, a nonprofit association of charter schools.
“These are true, site-based operations,” Griff said. All the budget, personnel and curriculum decisions are based on the wishes of that school, not the district’s.
The two charter schools in the valley, Aspen Community School and Carbondale Community School, serve kindergartners through eighth-graders. Both are part of the Roaring Fork School District, but Aspen Community School is slated to become part of the Aspen district soon.
If a charter high school is built in Basalt, the school would be within the Roaring Fork School District boundaries, but Stranahan is asking the Aspen School Board to take the school into its district, as Roaring Fork has expressed little interest.
Roaring Fork School District officials are opposed to a charter high school there, Stranahan said. If the new school draws students from the Roaring Fork District, it will draw state funding from the district, too, said Assistant Superintendent Judy Haptonstall. That could hurt programs, she said.
“We’ve gotten to the point in enrollment where we’re able to offer the kids a wider variety of programs,” Haptonstall said.
The Aspen School Board will take no action on the proposal until a formal application is submitted.
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