Father willing to fight to keep Indian Peaks Charter School open | SkyHiNews.com

Father willing to fight to keep Indian Peaks Charter School open

Due to low enrollment, Indian Peaks Charter School won't open for the 2019-2020 school year, but the school's long-term future remains uncertain.
Eli Pace / epace@skyhinews.com

The closure of Indian Peaks Charter School in Granby is a heartbreaking scenario for Michael Schurer, a local business owner and father of a student who’s done well at the school.

After nearly 20 years in Grand County, Indian Peaks Charter School will not open for the 2019-2020 school year with the school’s leadership citing low enrollment as the reason.

Calls to the school are being met by a recording that announces the closure and expresses the upmost confidence in the East Grand School District, which has set the first day of school for Aug. 26.

As for Schurer, he is praying this won’t be the end of the small charter school that has helped his son so much. Over the phone, Shurer explained how his son struggled with ADD in more traditional school settings and was failing his classes before finding footing at Indian Peaks.

With the school’s individualized learning programs and skillful teachers, Schurer said he has seen a world of difference and watched his son raise his grades to the point he is now passing all his classes.

Hearing the school, which has got his son to pay attention, understand the course material and learn, wouldn’t have enough students for the 2019-20 school year, Schurer was devastated.

“I felt terrible,” he said of his reaction to the news. “It was a great disappointment because I was counting on them to continue the progress they had started with my son; I about cried.”

Schurer credits his son’s success at Indian Peaks to its teachers and director, Michelle Kennard, who took over in 2018. With Kennard at the helm, Schurer believes his son was on track to start making As and Bs soon, but the father’s now worried the closure could derail his son’s hard-fought progress.

A news release from the Colorado Charter School Institute explained how Indian Peaks opened in Granby in 2000 and has seen about 20-30 students each year over the last five years. That number dwindled to just 18 students last year, and the school was expecting about the same number this year.

Small public school districts serving fewer than 50 students receive funding for a minimum of 50 students by law, the release continued. However, CSI charter schools don’t have access to the same levels of funding when the charter schools serve fewer than 50 students, even though they are funded by taxpayers dollars and do not charge any tuition fees.

Because of low enrollment, Kennard and school’s board of directors made the tough decision to close for the 2019-20 school year and support their families in transitions to a new school, she said.

“Our primary concern are the children in this school and their families,” Kennard wrote in a letter to families with children at Indian Peaks. “Mr. (Frank) Reeves, superintendent of East Grand School District, has pledged to welcome and transition our students to ensure their success.”

As much as an educator takes pride in hearing how a school has helped a student grow, Kennard said that Indian Peaks knew in December that the school had to meet a minimum number of students, and that didn’t happen.

“When you have 18 kids and nine grade levels and the funding only allows you two or three full-time teachers, that spreads the teachers way too thin, and they can’t give a quality education to every student,” she said.

As for the prospect the school could return with a sudden surge in enrollment, Kennard said that can’t happen this year with the decision to close already made. However, she said the school could potentially reopen for the 2020-21 school year with “a strong parent group” to lead the effort.

“I believe with a very strong, dedicated parent group, it can happen,” Kennard said, adding that she knows CSI would want a charter school here if enrollment can support it.

Given the chance, Schurer would like to play a part in that effort.

“I would work with (some other parents) to help create that absolutely,” he said.

The East Grand School District owns the small red building that has housed Indian Peaks Charter School. Officials with the district said they do not currently have any plans for the space.

Reporter McKenna Harford contributed to this report.

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