Charter academy celebrating 10th anniversary |

Charter academy celebrating 10th anniversary

Kristen Allen
NWS ECCA 10th Aniv2 DC 6-4

It began in 1994 with 64 fifth-, sixth- and seventh-graders attending classes at Vail Bible Church followed by a malodorous year as “sewer rats” next to a local sewer plant. Then came Eagle County Charter School’s move to its home at Miller Ranch Road in Edwards, and this year’s enrollment of 257 students in first through eighth grades

“It had some rocky times, but now it’s in great shape,” said Judd Babcock, a founding parent of the academy, which celebrated its 10-year anniversary with a barbecue Friday morning.

Of the 94 charter schools in Colorado, Eagle County’s academy is the second oldest still in operation.

“One thing has never changed,” Principal Jay Cerny said, “the passion of the teachers.”

Among the speakers at the celebration were alumni Eli Loper and Meghan Scanlan, who praised their former teachers for bringing “enthusiasm and intensity” to the classroom, and contributing to their success as college students. Loper is a recent graduate of Babson College and Scanlan graduated with honors from Notre Dame.

“It was a tightly knit community,” Loper said. “The teachers went beyond and got to know us as people.”

Karin Barker, the ceremony’s organizer and mother of both a seventh-grader and a Charter Academy graduate, unveiled a plaque she called a “tribute to the teachers and their work over the years.” The plaque reads, “Celebrating Eagle County Academy’s 10 Years of Excellence,” and lists every teacher and their years of service to the school.

Fifth- and sixth-grade teacher Jennifer Loper, Eli’s mother, has been at the charter academy from the beginning. “It’s been a dream to see the school progress and change,” she said. “There is such a contrast from when we started and didn’t know if we’d have a place for a school, to today, when we have a full-size soccer field.

“This and other charter schools have created a place for teachers, parents and students to have a strong ownership in the school,” she added. “It leads to families and kids having a different value for education.”

A charter school in Colorado is a semi-autonomous entity within a school district. The “charter” describes the school’s standards and goals and is essentially a contract teachers and parents who administer the school sign with the district. Parents, teachers and students choose to be at a charter school.

Parents play a large part at the charter academy, contributing a combined total of more than 3,000 hours per year.

“Since we have smaller classes the teachers can help us individually,” said student Lia Palmer, who will be a seventh-grader next year. “And having parents here really helps. If we need help they know what we’re doing in class and can help us,”

Vice Principal Beth O’Riley outlined the school’s goals. “Our motto is ‘For All the Right Reasons,'” she said. “We are committed to student excellence. We have high expectations, small class sizes and a rich learning environment. We produce students who are respectful, responsible and contribute to the broader community.”

O’Riley described a growing list of achievements. The Charter Academy recently won a John Irwin School of Excellence Award for performing in the top 8 percent of Colorado public schools, and third-through eighth-graders scored in the 80th percentile or better on the Colorado Student Assessment Program test, better known as the CSAP.

Students described the educational advantages of attending the school better known to students and parents as “ECCA” between mouthfuls of hamburger and potato chips after the ceremony.

“I like it a lot. We have responsibilities and our teachers are really nice,” fifth grader Will Hymes said.

Hymes’ best-friend Anderson Haney agreed, “ECCA rocks!”

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