COVA charter extended one year

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Students and staff in the Colorado Virtual Academy can breathe easy for a while.

The online school’s charter was approved for one additional year by the Adams 12 Five Star Schools Board of Education during its Feb. 6 meeting.

The approval is based on the condition that the school agrees to operate from July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014, and COVA representatives must deliver an agreeable contract by Feb. 15 to Adams 12 headquarters. The charter will expire on June 30, 2014, therefore requiring COVA to find a new charter before the expiration date in order to continue to serve students.

COVA executive director Mary Gifford said the school has a lot of work to do, but it’s nice to have a clear path. She said the COVA board has already begun the process of finding a new charter.

“I think the school had a clear path forward and it’s going to be a ton of work,” she said. “But I believe everyone is up for it and eager to commence the work.”

COVA is Colorado’s largest online school with around 4,400 students. It is a free, public school offering educational services to students in kindergarten through high school. The Adams 12 staff recommendation was to deny the renewal application due to the lack of success in COVA’s education program. COVA is currently in its third year of Priority Improvement status.

Vice president Norm Jennings said although COVA works really well for many students, it’s obvious that there have been cases that it’s also failed. He said he recognizes the fact that COVA has been upfront about the issues and appreciates COVA’s interest in doing the work needed to figure out which student will be best served by the school.

“Try and not go for the low-hanging fruit and extra money that comes with it because you are hurting the reputation of the school and Adams 12 in the process,” he said. “But I like this resolution, it give you the chance you need to turn the shop around,”

For board member Enrico Figueroa and board president Mark Clark, parental responsibility was an important aspect in their decision to approve the application.

“We have to give parents the ability to choose what they believe is best for their child,” he said. “I’m not an expert on what is best for their students. I think we struck a good balance in giving the extra year. I wish you guys the best and hope you can turn it around.”

Clark said he doesn’t think a governing board has the right to tell a parents how to educate their child.

“We need to give parents the choice to make the right decision for their most precious gift,” he said. “I think the parent knows what is best for a child and that is what changed me to say that you can keep going for another year.”

COVA board member Randy DeHoff said the school is aggressively focusing on reducing mobility, instituting stronger pre-enrollment counseling, setting clear expectations for students, teachers and administrators and increasing student engagement.