District recommends denial of online school


Representatives from the Colorado Virtual Academy had one last chance to convince the Adams 12 Five Star Schools Board of Education to renew its charter application during its Jan. 16 meeting.

Along with the group of COVA officials, there were more than 100 COVA parents and students showing their support of the online school’s presence in the district.

“I have a gifted and talented son and even though COVA does have flaws, despite those flaws, my son is flourishing in this school,” said parent Michael Long of Northglenn. “My challenge to you is to not shut down the school and find those flaws and address them.”

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 current five-year charter between Adams 12 and COVA expires on June 30.

Before COVA representatives gave their plea, Adams 12 charter school liaison Patti Gilmour gave the board staff’s recommendation to deny COVA’s renewal application. The denial was based on several reasons, but the key reason was the lack of success in COVA’s education program. With COVA in its third year of Priority Improvement status, Gilmour said failure to rise to Improvement status within the next two years will result in the district being required to take action to restructure or close COVA.

“In the case of COVA, closure is the right option,” she said. “First of all the district does not have the capacity to restructure COVA’s instruction program. As part of staff recommendation I would like to point out that short term turn-around is rarely successful.”

Following the staff recommendation, COVA board members Brian Bissell and Randy DeHoff proposed a plan to allow one additional year, giving the COVA board time to seek a new authorizer. With this additional year, the application would expire on June 30, 2014.

“We commit to you, as a condition, for an additional year, that we will not be back on your door step again and will not ask you, Adams 12, to authorize COVA beyond June 30, 2014,” Bissel said.

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.

“The board has adopted an enrollment policy to review whether or not new students are on track for their graduation expectations,” he said. “This policy also refers students who are significantly behind to other options if there is no way they can get enough credits to graduate before they turn 21.”

After COVA’s presentation, school board member Enrico Figueroa said his biggest concern was student engagement in academics.

“My chief academic officer told me that when a student has a negative academic experience in one year, it can take up to three years to recover,” he said. “So giving a year extension, you have to convince me not only will you make significant changes, but that we are not putting more students at risk of having a rough time.”

The Adams 12 board will vote on the renewal application at the Feb. 6 meeting. To view the entire COVA renewal application or the staff recommendation, visit www.adams12.org.


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