School District 51 granted exclusive chartering authority

MESA COUNTY, Colo. (KKCO/KJCT)-- Charter schools will now have to ask School District 51 for approval if they want to educate in the Grand Valley.

The decision by the State only applies to new charter schools, so the current ones will not be affected.

“Most large districts in the state, nearly all of them have this exclusive chartering authority,” said Scott Cooper, Assistant Superintendent for School District 51.

The State Board of Education agreed to give D51 exclusive chartering authority Wednesday and it’s effective immediately.

“It’s in effect for new applications for new schools, they would have to come to us first have a conversation with us go through our application process to determine whether or not it’s a good fit and they could be supportive from our district,” said Cooper.

Before this approval charter school could bypass the district and set up with the State’s Charter Schools Institute, or CSI. They District says this new agreement will help both D51 and new upcoming schools.

“We have many things that we can offer financially, sometimes we have extra building spaces that are not being utilized that a new charter school could start in,” said Cooper.

This does not affect current charter schools that are already in operation. However, some have chosen to work with the district in the past like Juniper Ridge, Independence Academy and Mesa Valley Community Schools.

“We have two charter schools who are engaged in building projects and so they were able to borrow some revenue at a very low interest rate to get these projects underway,” said Cooper.

However, Caprock Academy prefers its independence and is not a part of the district. They report to the Charter School Institute based in Denver.

“We get to operate based on what our school wants to do regardless of what schools around us are doing,” said Andrew Collins, Head of School, Caprock Academy.

One of the reasons D51 wanted chartering authority is so they can keep decisions local.

“I believe in local control. And I think locally, a Grand Junction and Grand Valley based decision, and our support that we have here, would be better and more beneficial to the students and the families here in our valley than a Denver based decision,” said Cooper.

The school district says this will be a good thing, adding financial support and more academic possibilities for students. They will be able to track students progress and easily transfer credits from school to school.

“We can also provide support financially, if they need insurance help we can provide that service, safety and security if they want to contract with us…also it provides more options for students and that’s the neat thing,” said Cooper.

Caprock says, there are some benefits to their method and by working alone. They can make their own financial decisions, hire who they want and for the most part teach what they want.

“We have a lot of autonomy. And so, we can make decisions based on what the students need today and implement those decisions tomorrow we get to determine what we get to spend our money on, if we see a need we can funnel things directly to that need,” said Collins.

The school district says they get one or two applications for charter schools a year, they believe this will make that process a little easier.

If the school district does not approve a new charter school, the charter school can still ask to set up through the state CSI but the district says they would have to move out of their district boundaries.

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