Douglas County School District is considering a pilot program with Leman Academy of Excellence to exchange land for the charter’s second location and receive space at the school to offer center-based programming for students with disabilities.
At the Sept. 27 school board meeting, board members voted 6-1 to direct staff to negotiate the details of the agreement with Leman, with board member David Ray dissenting.
The agreement currently outlined would have the district provide 11 acres on the Cielo Dedicated School Site near Crowfoot Valley Road to Leman for a PK-8 school. In return, two classrooms would be reserved for center-based programming and Leman would give preference to neighborhood families in enrollment lotteries.
Superintendent Erin Kane said the partnership aims to help the district with capacity concerns and demand in the Parker area, both for elementary school students as a whole, as well as special education placements.
“One of the ways the district can work with the school to make sure the school is absorbing students in an area where we are experiencing growth and need students to be absorbed from, rather than an under enrolled area for example, is to use district land for that purpose,” Kane said. “We need capacity in the Parker area for our center-based programming.”
DCSD would run and pay for the center-based programming and staff, per the current outline. Kane said the exact details of the special education at Leman would be fleshed out closer to the school opening, which is planned for 2024.
“Any time we’re looking at center-based programming, it’s going to be based on the capacity needs at the time that it’s opening up, which we don’t necessarily know the details about two years in advance,” Kane said.
In board discussion, most members were optimistic the partnership would help meet some of the district’s needs in a creative way.
“We’ve seen nothing but a very impressive partnership from the Leman team and I know they will continue to partner and it will be a true negotiation of what is mutually beneficial ultimately for our students, not just our students with special needs, but all the students in the surrounding communities,” board member Mike Peterson said.
However, Ray raised concerns that the district would be relying too much on charter schools at the expense of a future neighborhood school.
“We’re not only saying ‘yes, we’ll give this land to Leman,’ we’re also forfeiting the land for future growth,” he said.
Board member Elizabeth Hanson asked staff about how the partnership would work if the center-based programming is unsuccessful. Kane said the classroom space would be the district’s to use as they decide.
“Leman would be providing space for future district programming, so we could use the space for something else if we needed to in the future,” Kane said.
Staff is planning to bring back a negotiated contract and land lease at the Oct. 11.
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