After a year of financial and facilities-related obstacles, the Children’s Kiva Montessori School has met Montezuma-Cortez School District RE-1 requirements to reopen in fall.
The charter school had been placed on notice in December because of low enrollment and financial difficulties. The school board had first given Kiva through February to meet certain conditions, but the district extended the deadline through the end of the year when the school failed to meet them.
According to Carol Mehesy, district director of school improvement and grants, after multiple meetings with district officials, Kiva has shown it meets conditions and will be able to open its doors for the 2019-20 school year.
“They’ve been really willing and helpful partners in the process,” she said at the June 18 board meeting, acknowledging Kiva board members in the audience.
The charter school’s financial difficulties have been tied to low enrollment because state funding is largely determined by per-pupil enrollment. On top of enrollment issues, asbestos was discovered last fall at the school’s 601 N. Mildred Road location, leading to renovations of the building and relocation of classes.
At the Feb. 19 RE-1 board meeting, Mehesy said the district had sent Kiva notices of concern since September regarding the school’s financial health, student health and safety and how the state of the facilities would affect educational programming. Finally, on Dec. 13, RE-1 sent Kiva a notice of the school’s breach of contract, with an opportunity to cure the issue over the next two months.
However, the charter school failed to meet conditions by the February deadline.
Enrollment had dropped from 77.5 full-time equivalent students on Dec. 12 to 66.76 FTEs by Feb. 13. The charter school was still in an unstable condition and hadn’t provided the district with sufficient open-enrollment requests for the 2019-20 school year. As of Feb. 12, Kiva had open-enrollment requests for only 68.38 FTE students, 30 fewer than the district’s required condition.
Rather than revoke Kiva’s charter, though, the board opted to extend the deadline, and give the school a “second chance” to meet its conditions. In the meantime, the school has been operating at two downtown locations while asbestos was removed from its permanent site.
This time around, Kiva needed to prove its sustainability of enrollment and the stabilization and sustainability of its facilities.
For the enrollment condition, the school now has a total of 110 open-enrollment requests, exceeding the 98-request requirement, and school officials provided the board with a certificate of occupancy for the Mildred Road site.
Mehesy added student scores have also gone up. Some key staff positions still need to be filled, including a permanent head of school and finance director, along with some teachers and interventionists, but the charter has an interim head of school and finance director in place.
The school’s budget and finances are in a better situation too, she said.
“They submitted a preliminary budget to us for 19-20 that was based on an assumption of 95 FTE,” Mehesy said. “So they were being conservative, which is a positive. I think in the past sometimes they were being aspirational, so it’s nice to see a conservative estimate.”
The board congratulated the Kiva board members present for meeting the conditions.
“You worked hard,” said board President Sherri Wright.
The status of Kiva will be re-evaluated in December, Mehesy said.