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State education board declines to endorse charter high school

By Sun Advocate

Last Friday, the Utah Board of Education decided not to allow Pinnacle Canyon to start a charter high school program.
The state board’s decision came after the law and policy committee indicated earlier in the week that a charter program of the type in question would not be in the best interests of Carbon County School District.
“We kind of expected that,” said Pinnacle Canyon Academy administrator Roberta Hardy.
Pinnacle Canyon made an application to start a charter high school program last spring.
According to Mark Peterson, public relations director for the state office of education, the application was for accepting up to 400 students with an emphasis in the school on math, science and technology.
“They plan to open in 2004,” said Peterson in an interview last week, before the members made the state board’s decision. “But the education law and policy committee has not recommended that the board allow the school to be formed.”
At the committee meeting, Carbon District Superintendent David Armstrong and officials from Pinnacle Canyon made presentations on the points of view regarding forming the local charter high school.
The discussion in the committee about the situation centered around a number of issues. But the main concerned focused on the financial impact the proposed move might have on the county’s school district.
The education board’s decision came on the heels of a Utah State University evaluation earlier in the fall that concluded the charter schools in Utah are doing a good job.
In fact, Pinnacle Canyon Academy was singled out in the USU evaluation as one of the best charter schools operating in the state with high parent involvement and improved student learning.
Utah has a total of 13 charter schools. Some of charter schools cater to special students, including youngsters who are gifted and youth who are classified as at-risk.
But not all the charter schools are performing as well as originally hoped. Therefore, recommendations were forwarded to improve the schools.
The Utah State University study was conducted by visiting the schools, asking for community opinions on the schools functions and talking with school district officials.
Pinnacle Canyon Academy and Carbon County School District are in a particularly unusual situation compared to the rest of the state.
Carbon is the only district in the state that is putting per-student dollars into a charter school for main line education, while enrollment in the public system is shrinking.
The existing district-academy situation was part of the reason for the state board of education decision to not allow a charter high school in the county.
Many of the board of education representatives felt that approval of the charter proposal could damage the county district’s ability to continue to operate Carbon and East Carbon high schools effectively.
However, Hardy maintained that the charter school did not expect 40 percent of Carbon High’s enrollment to come the academy’s way.
“We said we would only take up to 100 kids,” stated Hardy.
Superintendent Armstrong was unavailable for comment at press time on Monday.
Last fall, the charter school expanded its size by putting in several additional classrooms, a new library and a lunch room. The expansion project at Pinnacle Academy was constructed from modular units brought onto the site.
Presently, the charter school serves students who attend classes from kindergarten through early junior high school age.

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