Charter school for at-risk kids to open in Caldwell

A first-of-its-kind charter school is expected to open in Caldwell in the fall of 2019.

Elevate Academy will focus on providing career-technical courses for at-risk students in Caldwell and neighboring communities. The goal is to bridge the gap between education and the work force.

The Idaho Public Charter School Commission voted unanimously to approve the school last week, after hearing opposition from the Caldwell School District.

Leaders of the neighboring Caldwell School District opposed the new charter school, saying they had “serious concerns” Elevate Academy would result in a duplication of services on the taxpayers’ dime and could hamper Caldwell’s ability to recruit teachers to hard-to-fill positions.

Two veteran educators and Caldwell community members, Matt Strong and Monica White, plan to bring education and industry together in a year-round career-technical school, with the goal of helping students graduate as industry-certified professionals. Students will participate in a career track that will prepare them for local industry or higher education. Partnering with local industry, Elevate Academy seeks to create a pipeline of highly-skilled workers that meet local employers’ needs.

“Elevate Academy can become a powerful model for how to provide outstanding and marketable career-technical opportunities for students across the Treasure Valley,” said Terry Ryan, the CEO of Bluum, a Boise-based nonprofit supporting school choice initiatives.

White and Strong resigned from the Caldwell School District in 2017 to focus on launching and running Elevate Academy.

In a letter to the charter school commission, Caldwell School District trustees said they already provide education programs to at-risk students through Indian Creek Alternative Middle School and a partnership between Canyon Springs High School and Caldwell High.

“First and foremost, Elevate Academy is an unnecessary expense to the taxpayers of Idaho,” trustees Charles Stout, Tom Briten, Lisa Bevington, Travis Manning and Marisela Pesina wrote. “It is a duplication of services already provided by the Caldwell School District and by neighboring school districts.”

Trustees also wondered how the charter school would partner with established school districts and recommended that Elevate consider opening its doors in a different community that doesn’t offer programs for at-risk students.

Reached by Idaho Education News, Caldwell Superintendent Shalene French provided a copy of the trustees’ letter in opposition to Elevate. French did not make any further comment on the school.

“This is a true collaboration between the school, local businesses, and the local community,” White said. “This is what sets this apart from other schools.”

In addition to securing support from local businesses, White and Strong partnered with the City of Caldwell to acquire land for the project. In June, the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation awarded Elevate Academy a $1 million startup grant.

Idaho Education News reporter Clark Corbin contributed to this report. 

Disclaimer: Idaho Education News and Bluum are funded by the  J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation. Idaho Education News’ data analyst Randy Schrader sits on the Elevate Academy board. 

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