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Charter school’s role in tax question unclear

Nicole Frey

EAGLE – The Eagle County Charter Academy is something of an anomaly in the school district. It gets some funding from the Eagle County School District – though not as much as traditional public schools – and as a result, charter school parents and staff spend much of time fundraising to cover expenses. But then again, members of the charter school were allowed to decide to cap their class size at 16. That’s not a luxury many public schools have. So as the Eagle County School Board starts to work on a bond question that may ask taxpayers for $100 million to $160 million in November, the charter school wants in on the action, but not everyone is sure if they deserve a piece of the pie. “The charter school knows their chance of success is better if it’s attached to something else,” said Scott Green, the school board president. “The charter school also thinks they can help get the bond passed.”An unstable home For the last 11 years the charter school has been around, the 289 students from kindergarten through eighth grade have been housed in modular buildings. Parents, students and teachers are yearning for a permanent building – one where their electronic chalkboards, or “smart boards,” won’t need to be restarted every time a boisterous child bounds into a classroom;. one where students don’t have to go outside to get to the cafeteria. “We need a new building,” said Jay Cerny, principal of the charter school. He said the modulars are starting to grow mold. But some parents, primarily those who have children in traditional public schools, aren’t as interested in including the charter school. “The bond should deal with overcrowding, but that doesn’t affect the charter school. Their needs don’t fit the needs of what the bond should be servicing,” said Marcy Donovan, who’s youngest child, Sean, will attend Avon Elementary School’s inaugural dual-language kindergarten class next year. Other parents worry adding the charter school’s requests will overload the bond, making the sum too big for the public to approve. “It would ensure the failure of the bond if the charter is included,” Donovan said. Need to unify But Susie Hervert, whose four children have attended or currently attend the charter school, said putting a separate question on the ballot for the charter school would be a big mistake.”Two (questions) will open the floodgates,” said Hervert, who also serves on the Eagle County Charter Academy’s board of directors. “One is hard enough, as history has shown, and if it’s not successful, who will it hurt the most? The students.”Brian Nolan, president of the Eagle County Charter Academy’s board, promised the charter school won’t be the one to make or break the bond question. “We’ll take what we can get,” he said.Charter school officials said if they weren’t able to get money to build a permanent building, they’d settle for getting enough to build a common area. “Right now, we can’t get all our kids in one room anywhere,” said Sarah Smith-Hymes, another academy board member. Too much for the charter academy?School board member Mary Ann Stavney said she had qualms about letting the charter school request money specifically for its own campus while other public schools don’t have that luxury. But Smith-Hymes said the law demands it, so there’s really no way around it – fair or not. “I wish everybody had the opportunity to do this,” she said. “That’s the way the charter law reads.”For those in favor of one bond question, it all comes down to unity.”Getting a bond passed is tough enough,” Smith-Hymes said. “The only way we’re going to get this bond passed is to work as a community, or we’ll all lose.”=======================Chime inIn additional to attending public meetings and filling out a public opinion survey, you can make your voice heard by contacting Brooke Skjonsby at 328-1923 or communications@eagleschools.net. =======================Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 748-2927 or nfrey@vaildaily.com. Vail, Colorado


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