Now that the midterm elections are over, the Estes Valley Community must look to our futures for our local schools, Fire Protection District, and journalism.
Now is not the time to become complacent.
(Please Note: I am no longer on social media of any kind. If you feel this is an important story, please share it with the community via your social media.)
As the Estes Park Community moves forward from the mid-term elections, the Colorado Switchblade begins to look into three separate issues that will have wide-ranging effects on our community.
In today’s podcast, I introduce these issues and begin digging into concerns, including an email circulating in our community sent to the stakeholders in our School District and local media regarding the upcoming decision to allow a right-wing Christian-based charter school into our community and in part funded by taxpayer funds that would otherwise go to our school district.
Here is the concerned email sent to community stakeholders over the weekend unedited in its entirety:
Ms. Stacy Ferree, President, Estes Park School District R3 Board of Education
Ms. Ava Kendal, Vice President, Estes Park School District R3 Board of Education
Mr. John Davis, Treasurer/Secretary, Estes Park School District R3 Board of Education
Mr. Eric Adams, Director, Estes Park School District R3 Board of Education
Mr. Jason Cushner, Director, Estes Park School District R3 Board of Education
Ms. Rube Bode, Superintendent, Estes Park School District R-3
Ms. Heather Gooch, Assistant to BOE and Superintendent
Ms. Bev Bachman, Chair, District Advisory Accountability Committee
Ms. Wendy Rigby, Estes Park Trail-Gazette
Ms. Kris Hazelton, Estes Park News
Mr. Jason VanTatenhove, Colorado Switchblade
Ms. Anne Delaney, Greeley Tribune
Mr. Will Costello, Loveland Reporter-Herald
Dear Board Members,
Thank you for your service to the Estes Park School District.
I realize that you will soon have before you a decision regarding the application for a branch of the Loveland Classical School (LCS) charter school here in the Estes Valley (known as ‘LCS-EV’). As a citizen of the district and a firm advocate for public education I am writing to you to express some concerns I have regarding this application and why it should not be granted. I have read the application and information available on the LCS website (such as the Student and Guardian Handbook) in detail, and some of the information raises concerns as to whether LCS is truly a public school with a culture open and accepting of everyone, or is it a private school culture focused on a select few of like-minded people?
As you make this very important decision, I encourage you to analyze the following issues.
· Concern for the governance and location of LCS-EV
o Governance: Per the LCS-EV application, LCS-EV will be governed by the appointed – not elected – LCS Board of Directors. This may be standard practice in a private school – but not in a public school. This board is based in Loveland – not Estes Park. Where is the accountability to Estes Park and the tax-paying public?
(LCS-EV application, page 58)
o Location: Per the LCS-EV application, LCS-EV is proposed to be housed at Cornerstone Church of the Estes Valley. If that location does not work out, 2 other Estes Park churches have said they would provide space. Cornerstone Church will receive $50,000 for improvements and $15,000 per year. How can LCS-EV, a public school, funded by public tax dollars, reside within a church, and yet claim this will have no influence?
(LCS EV Application pages 82 and 83)
o Furthermore, the pastor of Cornerstone Church of Estes Valley is on the Board of LCS. This clearly presents a conflict of interest.
o On November 14, 2021, leaders of LCS, along with several other Front Range Religious and Charter schools, published an ad in the Fort Collins and Loveland papers expressing opposition to county health orders (which reflected those of the Academy of Pediatrics) regarding the Covid pandemic.
o Per the LCS-EV application, if LCS-EV fails to meet the predicted number of students, it will fall short of its revenue goals and in turn, it will use LCS ‘Reserves’ as required. As I’m sure you are aware, LCS Reserves are from the Thomas School District (TSD). Any formal statement from TSD regarding this must be made public; both communities deserve to be informed.
▪ The predicted number of students for LCS-EV is 12 per grade level (grades 1 – 8) for the first year, 2 additional students per grade level the following year, and 1 additional student per grade level for all subsequent years.
▪ The LCS-EV application states that they have an ‘intent to enroll’ 62 students, however, 20 of those are listed in grades 7 and above – so they will not be eligible when LCS-EV opens. Likewise, the number of ‘intent to enroll’ students K-6 is considerably less than (by 50%) the 12 per grade level (just looking at K-6) required in year 1 to be self-sustaining.
(LCS-EV application pages 13 and 79)
· Socio-Economic status of students. Will certain requirements/aspects of LCS-EV make it difficult for students of low-income families to enroll in LCS-EV?
o The application states that transportation will not be provided for LCS-EV students. This immediately limits many families from even considering LCS as an option.
(LCS EV Application page 83)
o The application does not commit to providing food service. While it discusses some options, not having a firm plan that will ensure its students have access to free meals also eliminates many families.
(LCS EV Application pages 83 and 84)
o LVS provides a Dress Code Catalog as a guide for purchasing school-sanctioned clothing. Most of the recommended stores are financially out of reach for low-income families.
o There is a $75 per student fee to attend LCS-EV.
(LCS EV Application page 80)
· Students being accepted for their authentic selves.
o The dress code for LCS as available on their website as well as in the LCS-EV application makes it clear that a student is to conform to the school’s view of what is appropriate (including on a gender basis) and therefore, a student may not be permitted to attend school as their true authentic self, even if a parent is supportive of such choices. And while I agree that a level of dress code is necessary in a public-school setting, the LCS dress code is completely out of date for today’s public schools. Furthermore, it is up to the administration to determine the implementation of words such as ‘conservative’, ‘wholesome’, ‘modestly’, and ‘traditional’.
(LCS EV Application pages 44 and 45)
▪ Students are to have a conservative appearance, choosing clothing that fits properly and modestly, and adheres to the wholesome, conservative image stated in the dress code purpose. Board stated Dress Code Purpose: Students, faculty, volunteers, and staff are expected to have a conservative appearance, projecting a wholesome and traditional image at all times.
▪ Jewelry/Earrings: Please note that the application and the LCS online dress code for elementary students are not the same. Regarding jewelry, the application states “non-distracting” but the on-line LCS dress code states that only girls are permitted to wear earrings. Why the discrepancy and why the gender discrimination?
▪ Non-ear piercings are not allowed at any grade level at LCS. These types of piercings, such as a small nose ring, are very common today, are only done with parental permission, and allow a student to express their individuality.
▪ Only natural hair color and ‘traditional’ hairstyles are permitted. As above with non-ear piercings, a student (with their parent’s permission) should be allowed to express their individuality with their own hair. Likewise, who makes the judgment on what is ‘traditional’?
· Limited authentic education for certain topics (censorship?)
I think we can all acknowledge that we live in a challenging time in terms of certain issues and if and how they should be taught or discussed within our schools – especially public schools. However, the policies of LCS raise the question of whether students will even be allowed to discuss certain topics. If topics are not addressed openly, honestly, and unbiasedly, students are therefore in an environment of censorship and limited exposure to real-world situations. Examples include:
o Controversial Topics. The LCS policy on Controversial Topics is a perfect example of the above.
Controversial issues are defined as contemporary problems, subjects, or questions of a political or social nature where there are differences of opinion and passions run high. Controversial issues will only be explored when arising from some part of the curriculum (grades 6-12). When these subjects come up, teachers will present an impartial view of both sides without proselytizing. Contemporary controversial issues will not be discussed in the elementary school even if part of the Core Knowledge sequence, without Site Principal approval.
o Evolution. LCS wants to avoid the topic of evolution. The LCS policy on the teaching (or lack thereof) of evolution will limit LCS students in learning basic science principles.
Much of modern biology rests on the theory of evolution. The Core Knowledge sequence introduces the theory of evolution in the 7th grade. LCS will adhere to the Core Knowledge sequence. The theory of evolution in relation to human origins will not be taught at this time. In the high school biology class the evolutionary theories of human development will be canvassed. The teaching of evolution is not intended to exclude other theories of human origins and development, such as Creation. Nevertheless, we will not teach these theories but refer students back to their parents.
o Human sexuality. The LCS policy states:
LCS does not include within its curriculum “human sexuality instruction” as defined in C.R.S. § 22-1-128.
Information regarding this Colorado Education Statute can be found at:
C.R.S. § 22-1-128 begins by stating:
Colorado youth have a right to receive medically and scientifically accurate information to empower them to make informed decisions that promote their individual physical and mental health and well-being.
Why does LCS not believe in providing this information to their students?
· Supporters of LCS-EV. On October 27, 2022, the Estes Park Trail-Gazette published several names of supporters of LCS-EV.
Some concerns and perceptions of conflict of interest among this group include:
o Several are current or former pastoral staff of churches – which again – leads to the perception of conflict of interest and whether LCS-EV is a truly public school or has characteristics of a private religious school.
o There are 2 supporters on the TG list (Jay Jacobsmeyer and Eunice Docter) that donated a total of $6400 to the campaigns of 2 school board members in 2021. https://tracer.sos.colorado.gov/PublicSite/Search.aspx
o I am personally aware that many on the TG list of supporters do not have school-age children. As you have access to enrollment data, I would encourage you to analyze how many people on the list actually have school-age children.
· LCS Reviews / Student attrition
o As I am sure you are aware, LCS has received several one-star reviews on “GreatSchools.org” where parents have withdrawn their children from LCS.
o While these reviews are anecdotal, as you do your own analysis and investigation, I encourage you to understand how many students have enrolled and then unenrolled in LCS and then make the information available to the community.
o One 1-star review stated:
“Horrible school. Very narrow-minded school, no diversity. They push students out who don't fit their exact want.”
o One 5-star review raises red flags of a different sort:
“If you want a private education for your kids without having to pay for it, this is your school.”
Thank you for taking the time to read through these concerns. You were all elected by the Estes Valley community to do everything in your power to support and promote the Estes Park School District and the children of our community. Please do not let the desires of a limited group of people impact the incredible work that you and the school district administrators and staff are doing to accomplish your goals.
Also, in today’s episode, I speak about a mailer that will start to hit residents’ mailboxes today sent out by the Estes Valley Fire Prevention District, asking for community input. A press release below discusses the request for public input and the link to participate in the survey.
Here is a link to the internal survey they conducted on the same issues:
Today, I just introduce the topic briefly but I plan to have Chief Wolf on for a few conversations starting later this week regarding the reality of our communities fire protect moving forward.
I also briefly discuss a community conversation on the topic of local journalism I will be a part of at the Fort Collins Public Library this coming Wednesday evening.
From 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 16, Northern Colorado Deliberative Journalism Project partner Poudre River Public Library District will host its next edition of The Scoop community conversation series, focusing on the future of journalism in Northern Colorado and beyond.
The event will be held at the Old Town Library, 201 Peterson St. in Fort Collins. It is free for the public to attend, but registration is encouraged at www.poudrelibraries.org/events.
The community discussion and mediated debate will focus not just on the Coloradoan, a Deliberative Journalism Project partner, but how area residents find trustworthy, fact-based news today and how that will change in the future…According a recent mapping project conducted by the nonprofit Colorado Media Project, there are 25 identified providers of news in Larimer County across television, radio, digital and print media. They range from niche magazines like Craft Beer and Brewing to "legacy media" newspapers like the Coloradoan, Loveland Reporter-Herald and Estes Park Trail-Gazette. They include community organizations like Fort Collins Public Media and one-man online sites like Jason Van Tatenhove's Colorado Switchblade.
Today’s post is sponsored by: