E. Grand School Board declines to back Indian Peaks grant application | SkyHiNews.com

E. Grand School Board declines to back Indian Peaks grant application

Tonya Bina
tbina@skyhidailynews.com

The East Grand School Board voted 5-2 to reject the Indian Peaks Charter School’s request to endorse the school’s application for a Building Excellent Schools Today state grant.

At the Feb. 21 East Grand Board of Education meeting – after a long discussion with Indian Peaks officials about the school’s goals, its academic performance and its facilities – the school board voted no to the request for the superintendent and school board president to sign the application with a letter of support from the school district.

The application is for a $6 million to $8 million state grant to build a new 13,000-square-foot school in the Granby area, replacing the school’s three modular structures, one of which has had roof problems.

“The IPCS board and staff are sad and disheartened by the EGSD board’s decision to not support our quest for a newer, safer facility for our students,” Indian Peaks officials wrote in a prepared statement. “We will continue to pursue what is in the best interests of our students and staff, in spite of this setback.”

The school still intends to submit the BEST grant application, according to Sandy Pedersen, a former Indian Peaks employee who headed up the charge to seek out the grant.

“However, the BEST Grant requires that our charter school authorizer, who is East Grand School District, sign the application (requires both superintendent and a board officer sign) as well as submit a letter on their position on the application,” Pedersen said. “Given their decision not to do so last night, even if we submit the application, we will be rejected for lack of those required items.” 

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East Grand School Board Member Chip Besse was one who voiced his reservations about the application, saying in light of the district’s budget concerns, it may not be the right “message to the community” that the district board supports the spending of as much as $125,000 per Indian Peaks student on a new building, when the district just closed a school in Grand Lake that had a greater number of students.

The fact the Colorado Department of Education requires of the school a turnaround plan for last year’s low CSAP test scores was also a factor in Besse’s decision, he said on Wednesday.

“I’m not against the charter school,” he said. “If it was an extremely well-performing school and enrollment was increasing every year, I think I would see it differently.”

Indian Peaks currently has 48 students enrolled in kindergarten through 8th grade.

Although Indian Peaks is seeking a waiver on the match to the grant, if one were not issued, the school would be faced with raising a 34 percent match, at least $2 million, through grants and in the community.

School Board member Taunia Shipman questioned why the match was not being pursued, since it would help to gauge the community’s support.

The grant would provide for the “safety of the students” at Indian Peaks, Indian Peaks Principal Polly Gallagher repeatedly stressed to school board members.

The Colorado Department of Education has twice rated the school’s facilities as needing to be replaced, Pedersen said.

Gallagher told board members that building issues, such as a recent leaky roof, constantly have been a drain on the Indian Peaks budget since the school was established in 2000. She would like to see that money instead go toward the improvement of the school’s academic standing and educational offerings.

Gallagher contested the notion that a new building at Indian Peaks would financially affect the district as a whole by perhaps drawing students away from the other schools, as some school board members suggested. In the past, she said, the school has attracted students such as home-schoolers who were never enrolled in other district schools.

The Indian Peaks officials also argued that if the grant were awarded, the building project would bring an economic benefit to the community, and may even attract new families to the area and improve the school’s enrollment.

In the board’s vote, board member Jerry Reed, who represents the Granby area, and Barbara Ahrens, who represents Grand Lake, favored the district’s support for the grant.

– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603.

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