No ‘limbo’ at Carbondale Elementary |

No ‘limbo’ at Carbondale Elementary

John Colson

Roaring Fork School District officials insist Carbondale Elementary School is not “in limbo” in the eyes of the Colorado Department of Education. Roaring Fork School District Assistant Superintendent Judy Haptonstall said the fact that Carbondale Elementary is not on the state’s “probationary list” was not merely a “technicality,” as indicated in a recent Aspen Times article about Colorado Student Assessment Program tests. In an e-mail, she said the Times’ description of the school’s status-change is “the most negative spin anyone could put on the issue.”Carbondale Elementary has been in trouble for several years due to low CSAP scores, and under the federal No Child Left Behind Act was placed on a probationary list of troubled schools targeted for a state-initiated makeover. Following several years with unsatisfactory CSAP scores, state education officials were poised to order the school district to write a reorganization plan.Haptonstall said that because Carbondale Elementary is about to undergo major changes in its student population, state education officials recognized that the school’s CSAP testing history was less relevant.”When a school has a significant change in population, as we will have beginning this fall … the state recognizes that the testing information they have been using no longer serves as a valid baseline,” Haptonstall wrote.One major demographic change for the school came earlier this year when, spurred by a groundswell of unhappiness about test scores and other issues, parents banded together to create the Ross Montessori School in Carbondale. The charter school is due to open this year with roughly 145 students, many of whom had attended Montessori classes at Carbondale Elementary until the Montessori program was discontinued earlier this year.Another major change is the merger of Carbondale Elementary and Crystal River Elementary, which is also located in Carbondale. Carbondale Elementary has already been renamed West Campus of Crystal River Elementary School as the district prepares to consolidate facilities by expanding the Crystal River Elementary building.The merger is part of $86 million in school improvements around the district, which includes Basalt and Glenwood Springs as well as Carbondale. As part of that reorganization Carbondale Elementary’s fifth-graders will soon begin attending classes at Carbondale Middle School, a change that is permanent. All kindergartners and first-graders in Carbondale will study this coming year at Carbondale Elementary in order to facilitate the expansion of the Crystal River Elementary building. In light of all these changes, Karen Olson, principal of the newly combined schools, convinced the Colorado Department of Education to lift the looming sanctions and give the school a fresh start with its newly apportioned student body.”If the Montessori Charter does in fact have 140 students registered for the fall of 2005, that will represent a change in population of 35 percent at Carbondale Elementary,” Haptonstall wrote. “With the addition of kindergarten and first grade to CES, that increase in population represents a 50 percent change in population. When the fifth grade move from CES, that is a further change in population of 25 percent.” Finally, she maintained, “Carbondale Elementary is not in academic limbo, they are starting with a clean slate, which will provide three years of time before any state sanctions are brought against the school. We are quite certain that a clean slate means that the state recognizes that past assessment history is a [moot] point given the impact of radical change in population at CES.”

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