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Colorado will pay for two ways for Adams 14 students to go to different schools

The top front of a yellow school bus, against a blue sky

Some Adams 14 students choosing to enroll in higher-rated schools may get free transportation out of the district next school year.

Stacey Rupolo for Chalkbeat

Colorado will pay about $3 million over two years to transport some Adams 14 students to schools outside the district.

The state will award funds to a charter school group and a pair of nonprofit organizations that  applied for money from a new state grant to transport Adams 14 students away from low-performing schools.

The charter school group proposes to take Adams 14 students to its schools, Community Leadership Academy and Victory Prep.

The nonprofit groups would pay for rides from HopSkipDrive, a ride-share company, to take students to high-rated charter or district-run schools in Denver.

The state asked both applicants to modify their applications, which group leaders said would not be a problem.

The charter school group requested slightly more than $100,000 in each of two years to pay for existing bus service for about 50 more students. Together, the two charter schools, which have the same leaders, serve students in kindergarten through 12th grade in Commerce City.

“It just opens up so many options for families,” said Terry Croy-Lewis, executive director of the Charter School Institute, supporting the charter school application. 

The state asked two non-profit groups applying together, RootEd and Transform Education Now, to cut their budget request by 10% to about $2.7 million for two years, to justify why their per-student cost of more than $5,000 exceeds predetermined state estimates, and to have a way to track the grant dollars, among other things.

Nicholas Martinez, the executive director of Transform Education Now, said the groups could make the changes.

Although families in Colorado have long been able to send their children to schools outside their neighborhood, they’ve usually had to arrange their own transportation

Even then, many Adams 14 families have enrolled their children in neighboring districts. Last school year about 3,000 students attended non-district schools, leaving slightly more than 6,100 students in Adams 14. 

As Adams 14 faced state pressure over its academics, State Board of Education members wanted to find a way to pay for transportation to make it easier for students to attend a higher-rated school. The state board discussed those options even before it ordered the district to reorganize and possibly face dissolution.

The district, meanwhile, is working on recruiting and retaining students. Last school year, it paid for billboards to advertise new programs at Adams 14 schools, and is working to make it easier for families to re-enroll. 

In a lawsuit filed last week, the district’s lawyer wrote that the state’s orders requiring reorganization have harmed the district and prompted more students to plan to leave Adams 14 schools.

Colorado funds school districts based on the number of students enrolled. As districts lose students, they face the prospect of losing funds as well.

Yesenia Robles is a reporter for Chalkbeat Colorado covering K-12 school districts and multilingual education. Contact Yesenia at yrobles@chalkbeat.org.

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