Boulder Valley homeschool program moving forward
By: Amy Bounds
March 14, 2012
The Boulder Valley School District is moving forward with its plans to open a part-time program for the district's homeschool students.
The K-8, part-time program is designed to replace the Boulder Options program, which is administered by Aurora Public Schools and enrolls about 125 students. Altogether, Boulder Valley has about 350 registered homeschool students.
The district has created an advisory council of about 20 homeschool parents, who are helping with the design, and is considering continuing to use the same location at East Boulder Baptist Church.
Brooke Bell, a committee member and alternative education advocate who lives in Lafayette, said she wants to see the program "really focus on the needs of homeschoolers and on understanding the culture of homeschooling, because it's unique.
"The district needs to have a connection to our community and to use the resources that our community offers," she said.
So far, plans include focusing course offerings on fine arts, science and world languages. Other areas of interest include technology, math and robotics.
"There's a real interest in a range of course offerings," said Deirdre Pilch, assistant superintendent for school leadership. "We're going to have to be flexible."
The district plans to bring the program to the school board for approval this spring and begin holding classes in August.
Boulder Valley school board President Jim Reed said the board generally is supportive of the plan.
"It makes a lot of sense," he said. "A local school can meet their needs much better than a school run out of Aurora. It gives us more of a voice in how it's going to be run."
For Aurora, the program helped boost student enrollment -- and the amount of state per-pupil revenue the district received. The Boulder Valley program is expected to break even, not make money, district officials said.
Pilch said she's expecting about 50 students to enroll in the first year.
"We are hopeful that the parents on the advisory council will stay engaged in the process and will enroll in the new program," she said.
Other homeschool parents are sticking with the existing Options program.
Boulder Options coordinator Kim Lancaster worked out an agreement with the St. Vrain Valley School District to move the program there.
The curriculum will be the same, and St. Vrain agreed to offer positions to the existing teachers. The program will be located at Niwot's Vinelife Christian Church, about six miles from the current location.
Along with a new location, the program also will have a new name and will be overseen by St. Vrain instead of Aurora Public Schools.
Holly McNutt, who has one child in the Boulder Options program, said she plans to go to the new site in St. Vrain. She said her son likes the school and his teachers, while she likes the coordinator -- and didn't like the way Boulder Valley handled the decision to close the Options program.
"New programs have learning curves," she said. "I don't want my kid to be part of theirs. Maybe, after it has been up and running, we'll consider it for high school."