Vail Meadows, a therapeutic horse farm on Cedar Point Road, plans to form a new charter school. But first it needs a sponsor.
Officials from the 25-acre riding center requested sponsorship from the Oregon school board at a special board meeting on Monday. The special meeting was called because Vail has until March 15 to submit its application to the state to create a charter school, which requires sponsorship. But the board took no action.
The school would be for at risk students between the ages of 13-19, according to Mike McGee, who is a board member of the charter school. The school would need 25 students to start.
“It’s not a traditional school, it’s for kids who are struggling in an atmosphere where we flourished,” he said.
The charter school would provide a unique structured educational opportunity for students who find it impossible to grow and excel within conventional public/parochial/home school programs, according to Vail’s mission statement.
The targeted population includes students struggling with grades, self-esteem, making bad decisions, dropping out of school before graduation, trouble with the law, family problems, learning problems, reading below grade level, slight autistic behaviors, aspergers syndrome, and students needing a hands-on learning environment.
“A lot of kids don’t go to school, in my opinion, because they’ve lost interest, they fell behind,” said McGee.
The type of student who would attend the school, said McGee, is “the kid on the fence, who could fall either way.”
“Our goal would be to bring him on the right side, bring him to school,” said McGee.
Though the charter school would teach subjects in the core curriculum, such as math, science, basic language, and arts, there would also be non-traditional programs, such as working with animals.
Board member Jeff Ziviski asked how many Oregon students would qualify.
“Anybody would qualify who wants to participate in that kind of program,” said Superintendent Dr. Mike Zalar. “However, the type of curriculum and program they’re offering would limit the number of people who would be interested. They’re looking at a school with anywhere from 25-50.”
“What’s the downfall if we are involved?” asked board member P.J. Kapfhammer. “If it doesn’t tie us to anything, and we can help a community based school, then I’m all for it.” He would not support it, he said, if the sponsorship would tie the district to “liabilities and be a financial burden.”
Most of the charter school students would likely come from outside the district. State funds allocated to each student would follow them to the school in which they would enroll, such as Vail Meadows. Four percent of that allocation would go to the Oregon City Schools District.
“We would be providing fiscal and educational oversight,” said Zalar. “We would visit periodically, myself or a designee, to make sure the curriculum is being followed, that type of thing. There would be some man hours involved from our district personnel in exchange for that revenue coming back into the district. That is something the board will have to consider. If we’re going to lose kids, we’re going to lose kids – no matter who sponsors the school. If Oregon schools choose not to be the sponsor, they’re going to go somewhere else at some point in time. I’m sure they’ll be able to find a sponsor. Because of its location, I do expect some Oregon kids would probably take advantage of that – certainly not a large number – maybe five. I think most of their students are going to come from outside Oregon as a result of court placements and other types of advertising. But you’d really have to have an interest in that – a unique curriculum that deals with animals. It’s not going to be for someone, necessarily, that wants the academic rigor or content that they would get from a traditional school.”
The district currently sponsors the Eagle Learning Center charter school.