Next school year, the halls of an empty school building that once hosted Pleasant View Elementary will again be bustling with students. The Colorado Department of Education unanimously approved Free …
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Free Horizon, which first opened as a charter school in 2002, will become the first Jefferson County Schools option school with innovation status.
For one thing, this means the school’s teachers will be able to continue following the Montessori method of instruction, and their Montessori-based teaching credentials will still be honored.
As a district school, Free Horizon will also have some of the support of a traditional district school, such as funding, facility maintenance, on-site food service and human resources staff. Teachers and other faculty members will become district employees. Transportation, by means of school busses, is not included at this point.
The Pleasant View building will also allow the school to expand its early childhood program.
Next school year, the halls of an empty school building that once hosted Pleasant View Elementary will again be bustling with students.
The Colorado Department of Education unanimously approved Free Horizon Montessori shifting from a charter school to a district option school with innovation status on June 14.
This follows an approval from the Jeffco Board of Education on May 3, also a unanimous vote.
“It’s going to be great creating new pathways to serve students,” said Tim Matlick, the Jeffco school district’s achievement director for charter schools. “At the end of the day, it’s about providing them with great options.”
Jeffco Public Schools has a number of option schools but this will be its first innovation school. The innovation status will allow Free Horizon to continue operating as a Montessori school.
“We are so excited to be able to embark on this partnership with Jeffco in order to bring more Montessori options to children,” said Free Horizon Montessori Principal Kresta Vuolo.
The agreement includes having Free Horizon move into the Pleasant View building, 15920 W. 10th Ave. in Golden. Anticipated move-in date is Aug. 1. Jeffco Public Schools will acquire Free Horizon’s building at 581 Conference Place in Golden, which Free Horizon purchased through public bond in 2010.
“From the district side, Jeffco would like to add more school choices like Montessori to the district-managed school portfolio,” said Diana Wilson, the chief communications officer for Jeffco Public Schools, while “keeping as many neighborhood schools open as possible.”
Although a beloved and well-supported school by its community, Pleasant View Elementary closed at the end of the 2016-17 school year. The Jeffco Board of Education cited low enrollment and aging building conditions among reasons for the closure.
Many of the students who went to Pleasant View now attend other Jeffco Public Schools. The majority of students are at Shelton Elementary, 420 Crawford St., and Welchester Elementary, 13000 W. 10th Ave.; and a good number attend Kyffin Elementary, 205 S. Flora Way. All three of those schools are in Golden. About 20 students went on to nearby Bell Middle School. Most of the rest are spread out in small numbers among 30 other Jeffco schools.
“We understand the Pleasant View community is still grieving,” Vuolo said. “We hope to work overtime at building relationships that are grounded in community.”
Free Horizon will remain a 100 percent choice enrollment, so families who were displaced by Pleasant View closing can remain at the school they transitioned to last year.
However Free Horizon Montessori will be giving special enrollment priority to families in the Pleasant View area. Current students will still have first priority, Vuolo said, followed by children of full-time staff. The next is siblings of current students, and families in the Pleasant View articulation area will follow the sibling category.
During the 2017-18 school year that just ended Free Horizon had 425 students enrolled. Vuolo expects that number to increase by at least 25 more students for the 2018-19 school year.
“This arrangement offered both sides benefits,” Wilson said. “And if not exactly what each had in mind — Free Horizon Montessori gave up some independence (and) the district has less oversight than is typical — it’s close enough to make it worth the effort. And in the end is what both parties want, a great school option for Jeffco kids.”
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