CASTLE ROCK - Over the past few years, strong emotions have surrounded the changes taking place within the Douglas County School District -- from school vouchers to eliminating the contract with the teachers' union. Now, there's a project underway that may also be reflective of the new direction of the district.
"I think you've got to take emotions out of it and you've got to ask yourself the basic question, what's best for kids?" Jonathan Nye, president and founder of the Aspen View Academy charter school said.
Construction has already begun on Aspen View which will be a preschool through 8th grade school located in the Meadows area of Castle Rock. Typically, charter schools are on their own to find ways to pay for a building. But, the Douglas County School District allowed the charter school to issue Certificates of Participation to raise more than $14 million to pay for construction costs.
In other words, the school district is essentially investing in the charter school. It will then recoup the money over time through payments made each year from Aspen View's operating budget to the district which will hold the lease. The land for the school was also donated through an agreement with the Douglas County School District, the town of Castle Rock and Aspen View.
"I think what this partnership has done is, it's allowed us to really take on a large volume of students in a very short period of time," Nye said.
The Meadows is a rapidly growing area of Castle Rock. When Aspen View Academy opens in September, it can take as many as 600 students from the area. School Board Director Kevin Larsen says that's a good solution for a district that has failed in its attempts to convince voters to raise property taxes for schools.
"We've got growth in our county and we've got kids that need to come in the schools and get the best education possible," Larsen said. "We can't just stop because we've got the typical constraints. We have to come up with creative solutions."
The district also created an agreement like no other with Aspen View. After three years of open enrollment, typical for any charter school, Aspen View will have to provide a weighted lottery system giving admissions priority to students who live within a certain boundary.
"It's a neighborhood charter school," Nye said. "It really was a great advantage of something that's really never existed before to the best of my knowledge, not in Colorado and perhaps even the nation."
Larsen says it's another example of the school district looking for different ways to solve different issues.
"Having this charter in the location really fits with our whole idea of wanting to provide as many options and chances that are right for parents and students in our district," Larsen said.
Nye hopes that people around the district can look past their emotions to see that what's building at their site is more than a school, it's part of a new district.
"I certainly hope that the rest of the parents and those who maybe have some of those emotions can put that aside and take a step back and go look here's proof point evidence that the district is doing the right thing for the kids," Nye said.
Aspen View Academy is enrolling students now for the fall semester.
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