The Children’s Kiva Montessori School charter has been renewed by the Montezuma-Cortez school board.
The charter school, in its sixth year, has faced some turbulence recently, especially in terms of finances and low enrollment. But after Kiva met the school district’s conditions by June last year, and underwent a re-evaluation in December, the board unanimously decided Tuesday night to renew its charter through June 2021.
“I know you guys have done good things this year,” board president Sherri Wright told Kiva staff and parents at the regular meeting held at Lewis-Arriola Elementary School. “Keep it up.”
The charter school had been placed on notice in December 2018 because of low enrollment and financial difficulties – tied together because state funding is largely determined by per-pupil enrollment. Additionally, asbestos was discovered last fall at the school’s 601 N. Mildred Road location, leading to renovations of the building and relocation of classes.
Kiva was granted two months to address the issues but failed to meet the district’s conditions by the February deadline. The status of the facilities was still somewhat unstable, and the charter had open-enrollment requests for only abolut 68 full-time-equivalent students for the 2019-20 school year – 30 fewer than the district’s required condition.
But rather than revoke Kiva’s charter, the board opted to extend the deadline through June 2019 and give the school a “second chance” to meet its conditions. In the meantime, the school was operating at two downtown locations while asbestos was removed from its permanent site.
By June, Kiva met Re-1’s requirements and was allowed to reopen in the fall. The charter school had a total of 110 open-enrollment requests, and school officials provided the board with a certificate of occupancy for the Mildred Road site.
Kiva’s charter would have expired in June 2020, so the school applied for renewal in early December, according to the Re-1 resolution presented Tuesday. And after Superintendent Lori Haukeness, the superintendent’s cabinet and the District Accountability Committee reviewed the application, they recommended the board renew the charter for one year, with the opportunity for a one-year extension.
Jeff Pope, head of the Children’s Kiva Montessori School, thanked Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1 for its support in helping the school bounce back.
“We’re grateful for the chance to show what our students and our organization can do as a choice education in our region,” he told The Journal.
He added too that a small group of strong advocates were responsible for the school staying open.
“But for the dedication of a small and dedicated group of parents, board members, teachers, students, and some staff members, this school would have closed,” Pope said. “But they believed in the need for a choice in the community and have thought to make sure that that choice exists.”
The conditions set by the resolution stipulate that Kiva meet certain academic and financial benchmarks in order to be eligible for a one-year extension through June 30, 2022.
Academically, Kiva must attain a state accreditation rating of “Improvement” or better, or show a median growth percentile of 50 or higher in math and reading. Financially, the school needs to attain a rating of “low risk” in each of the district’s financial performance indicators.
Both benchmark categories are based on data from the 2019-20 school year.
“If the Children’s Kiva Charter School meets the performance benchmarks AND other provisions outlined in the contract, then the Children’s Kiva Charter School will be granted a one-year extension through June 30, 2022,” the resolution reads. “If the Children’s Kiva Charter School does not meet the performance benchmarks and other provisions outlined in the contract, its contract shall end on June 30, 2021, and the Children’s Kiva Charter School will have to apply for renewal by December 1, 2020.”
In addition to renewing the charter, the Re-1 board authorized district staff to negotiate a contract with Kiva’s own school board. The contract will be considered for approval by June 1, 2020.
Kiva is a kindergarten through eighth grade charter school. While it is located on Mildred Road, the charter also contracts with the Children’s House on Empire Street, so that kindergarten students can learn alongside preschoolers, as per Montessori educational philosophy.
“Montessori philosophy prescribes that having preschoolers and kindergartners together works really well,” Pope said. After kindergarten, students then move to the Mildred Road site for first through eighth grade.
Currently, there are 97 K-8 students enrolled, Pope said. They are expected by Re-1 to maintain an enrollment of 95 students.