New charter school moves forward with plans

The newest charter school in District 51 is scheduled to open Aug. 12.

In order to be ready for the first day of class, Juniper Ridge Community School has 18 weeks to sign a property lease, set up an 11-unit modular facility on that property and hire 10 teachers.

Juniper Ridge Administrative Director Patrick Ebel said those items are in the works. The school has already hired Ebel and Donald Simpson, a Boulder-based teacher who will move here to become Juniper Ridge’s curriculum and instruction director, and the school is in the second stage of teacher interviews.

Ebel said the school plans to sublease the former Caprock Academy location at 640 24 1/2 Road. The academy moved up the road two years ago into a new building at 714 24 1/2 Road but still has a lease on the old land. Ebel said he plans to place a series of modular units on the property, much like the configuration Caprock used to have there.

So far, Juniper Ridge has welcomed 90 students during open enrollment, which closed March 22, and has room for 70 to 96 more. The school will start with two kindergarten classes, two first-grade classes and one class each for second- through sixth-grades. Ebel said the school plans to add one grade each year.

“K-12 is my vision,” he said, adding he only knows of one public Waldorf high school in the United States.

The Waldorf education philosophy is something Juniper Ridge plans to incorporate in every aspect of the school. The Waldorf instruction method focuses on tailoring lessons to stages of child development, starting with artistic teaching methods like singing and story-telling and moving into experimental and observational learning.

Waldorf training for teachers, furniture and other start-up costs will be paid for by a Colorado Charter Schools Program Start-up and Implementation Grant that will provide the school with $196,500 a year for three years. Ebel said he only recently found out Juniper Ridge would get the grant.

“It would have been very difficult to open without it,” he said.

The first lump sum from the grant has to be spent by the end of this June, but first the school’s contract with District 51 has to be approved. Although he said “time is slipping through the hour glass” in terms of Juniper Ridge having a facility in time for opening day, District 51 Superintendent Steve Schultz said at Tuesday’s school board meeting he doesn’t believe having some details about the school outstanding will make the contract impossible.

“We don’t anticipate this will be a deal-breaker,” he told the board.

The school is still taking applications for enrollment, which are available at Parents also can learn about enrollment at information sessions that will take place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. every Wednesday at Barnes & Noble, 2451 Patterson Road, through likely the start of school.

A meet-and-greet with Ebel, Simpson and school consultant Rainbow Rosenbloom will take place at 7 p.m. Monday at Riverside Educational Center, 552 W. Main St.


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