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Jeffco schools approves Free Horizon shift from charter school to district option school

Innovation status still needs approval from state board


Pending approval by the Colorado Department of Education, Free Horizon Montessori is on its way to obtaining a slightly different configuration, and a new home.

On May 3, the Jeffco Board of Education unanimously approved Free Horizon Montessori shifting from a charter school to a district option school with innovation status.

“I think this agenda item represents a great win-win for Free Horizon Montessori, for the Pleasant View community and for Jeffco Public Schools,” said the school district's Superintendent Dr. Jason Glass. “Maybe it's a win-win-win.”

However, the innovation status still needs to be approved by the state board of education for some waivers from state law, necessary for Free Horizon to operate as a Montessori school.

MORE: Plans announced to move charter school into Pleasant View

Free Horizon hopes to have the issue in front of the state board on its June 15 agenda. If it gets approval from the state board of education, it is proposed that Free Horizon Montessori would move into the former Pleasant View Elementary school building, 15920 W. 10th Ave. in Golden, for the 2018-19 school year.
The school district would acquire the building that Free Horizon Montessori currently owns, located at 581 Conference Place in Golden.

Pleasant View Elementary closed at the end of the school year last 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.

Free Horizon Montessori representatives noted at the May 3 Jeffco school board meeting that the Free Horizon board has already decided to create a priority enrollment category under choice enrollment for families in the Pleasant View area.

Still, Pleasant View Elementary was a beloved and supported school in the community, said Kim Brock, chair of the Golden Schools Foundation, an organization that supports Golden's seven neighborhood articulation schools through various enrichment grants and academic programs, in a previous interview.

The transition to a new school was tough on the families, Brock said, and it seems “dishonest” to expect them to transition again just a year later.

But what is probably the most upsetting about it for the Pleasant View community is that there would be a different school in the district-owned and maintained building, which contradicts the district's main rationale for closing Pleasant View Elementary last year, Brock added.

Lisa Cernick, a parent and member of the Free Horizon Montessori board, believes having Free Horizon in the community will be a benefit for all Jeffco students and that the impact “goes beyond the bounds of the building itself,” she said on May 3.

“We understand that Pleasant View Elementary is a loss that the community will continue to grieve,” Cernick said. “We are not trying to replace Pleasant View Elementary. (Free Horizon Montessori's) goal with this move is to be a good neighbor and part of a larger community.”


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