Where’s Stone Creek Elementary?
EAGLE-VAIL – Bill Hammer has had some big moments, like his wedding day and the when his children were born. This was that big.Hammer’s latest big day came on Jan. 26. That’s the day he and a handful of other local parents gave birth to Stone Creek Elementary School, a new charter school for the valley.”I’m not ashamed to say I cried,” Hammer said.Now, after about nine months of working under the radar, the small group that founded Stone Creek Elementary School needs other parents to get involved between now and about Labor Day, when the new school will open.Help already is on the way.”I’ve already had parents calling me, asking ‘Can you get me on the board?'” said Lynnette Miscio, another member of the group that founded Stone Creek.Getting the new school to the point that it’s ready to hire administrators and teachers took about nine months. It also took several trips to Denver.A relatively new law allows local groups to ask a state committee for authority to launch charter schools. The Eagle County Charter Academy, the valley’s existing charter school, gets its authority through the local school district.Looking for stabilityHammer and the other parents who went to the state did so because of their lingering uncertainty over the future of Meadow Mountain Elementary School.Early last year, the Eagle County School District asked for public comment on a handful of possible plans intended to solve crowding problems at some of the district’s schools. One of those plans included closing Meadow Mountain. Parents at the school rose up in protest, and the prospect of closing Meadow Mountain has dimmed as the district has started to settle on plans to ask voters for a tax increase for a building plan that includes a new high school in Edwards.
But Hammer, whose youngest child is just six months old, wanted more certainty that all three of his kids could have some stability in their education.”My daughter lost all her friends from last year because of boundary changes,” he said.Miscio had similar worries about the school’s future. She was especially worried that her kids might have to change schools more for the sake of numbers than education.”I don’t want to send my child to fix a problem at Avon Elementary,” Miscio said. “I want my children to grow up in a world that reflects the reality of where they live. But all they’re concerned with is fixing the numbers at Avon, not the curriculum.”Aiming for diversityMiscio worries about white kids going to Avon for the sake of evening out the racial balance in that school’s predominantly Hispanic population. But Stone Creek’s charter from the state requires it to bring in Hispanic and “at risk” students. Miscio said she welcomes that mandate.”In this curriculum, kids will learn English and Spanish. That’s going to create a bridge between cultures,” Miscio said.The school intends to advertise to attract Hispanic families, Hammer said. And parents, many of whom are small business owners, say they’ll use their work contacts to help recruit Hispanic families for the school.Where that school will be, though, is still up in the air. Hammer said he’s talked to a few people who might have property available, but provided no other details. The school could use vacant office space at first, he said, or it could use mobile classrooms – portable strucutres that are like mobile homes – on a piece of vacant property.However it works out, getting a place for the school is now the founding committee’s top priority, followed closely by hiring a principal.Finding a home for a school and an experienced educator to run it are just a couple of the hurdles the parents of Stone Creek have to clear before this fall.”Our biggest challenge was a facility,” Eagle County Charter Academy Board Member Susie Hervert said.Then there’s the matter of money. Students aren’t charged tuition, and the school gets about $6,400 per kid from the state. If 150 kids start at Stone Creek this fall, that adds up to about $975,000. G
rants and other funding bring the estimated total to about $1.5 million for the first year. But, Hervert said, money is going to be tight pretty much forever.”There’s always a gap,” Hervert said. “You’ll have to fund-raise to make ends meet. Having great parents is really important.”But, Hervert said, there seems to be a place for another charter school in the valley.”Our community is growing, and the number of kids is increasing from East Vail to Gypsum,” she said. “And giving kids and parents more choices is never a bad thing.”And choice is a big part of what’s driving the Stone Creek parents, Hammer said.”We want another alternative for parents in this district,” he said. “We want to set an example of what can be done.”On the Net: http://www.stonecreekschool.orgStaff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14624, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail Daily, Vail Colorado