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The Jeffco school board on Wednesday approved a new charter school to open in Coal Creek Canyon and replace a district-run school that will close at the end of this school year.
Jefferson Academy, a charter network that has long operated in the district, is proposing to replicate its model with a pre-K-8 school in the same building as the soon-to-be-closed Coal Creek Canyon K-8. The new school, Jefferson Academy Coal Creek Canyon, will open for the 2024-25 school year, and will be designed as significantly smaller than its existing schools.
The board voted unanimously and with little discussion to approve Superintendent Tracy Dorland’s recommendation. The decision means that families in Coal Creek Canyon, a small community near the Boulder school district boundary, will continue to have a nearby public school for their young children.
In October, the Jeffco school board voted to close Coal Creek Canyon K-8 as part of the second phase of the district’s plan to close small schools. With fewer than 100 students the district said the school was not sustainable. But given that the school is in a remote part of the district, officials proposed opening a charter in the building so families wouldn’t have to travel far to a new school.
The district also noted that it may be more feasible for a charter school to operate in that location with relatively few students.
Initially, the district received three letters of intent from charter schools interested in the Coal Creek Canyon K-8 facilities, but it ultimately received only one application from Jefferson Academy.
Staff presenting Dorland’s recommendation to the board Wednesday said the district had been impressed that the charter network had submitted 95 intent-to-enroll forms for its proposed school. That would mark an enrollment increase from the district-run school’s current student count.
The superintendent did include two conditions for the charter to open.
First, the district is asking the charter network to set aside $250,000 for use at the Coal Creek Canyon site, in case enrollment projections or the proposed finance plan don’t pan out.
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The district is also asking Jefferson Academy to present a detailed plan by April 5 on how it would provide targeted support to students who are struggling academically.
In addition to the district’s typical review teams for the charter application, the district also had a committee of community members from Coal Creek Canyon review the application and present their thoughts.
In a memo, the committee cited several strengths of the proposed school, such as the options that will be available for before- and after-school care, unique course offerings, and the opportunity to have one local Coal Creek parent serve as a member of the charter network’s school board.
Among its concerns, the group cited a lack of transportation; it asked the school to at least help coordinate carpooling. The committee also asked for increased marketing to help families better understand the school’s proposed Core Knowledge curriculum model.
At the opportunity for public comment in December, only one parent spoke to the school board about the charter application, saying she was impressed with the proposed school plan, which had made her “enthusiastic” about her son’s learning again.
Dorland told the school board she would keep them updated on enrollment projections for the charter school and how it progresses.
Yesenia Robles is a reporter for Chalkbeat Colorado covering K-12 school districts and multilingual education. Contact Yesenia at email@example.com.