Two charters gain conditonal approval

Elementaries both plan focus on foreign language

The Douglas County School District decision to extend school vouchers to some students is facing challenges from four national and local organizations. Photo by Courtney Kuhlen | ckuhlen@ccnewspapers.com
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Two elementary charter schools that focus on teaching foreign languages gained conditional approval June 18 to open their doors in Douglas County.

The World Compass Academy, negotiating now for property in Castle Rock, plans to open for the 2014-15 school year. Global Village Academy, seeking land in northeast Douglas County for its fifth Colorado site, would follow a year later.

The Douglas County School Board gave both conditional approval, and the schools still must meet several requirements — including enrollment of a minimum number of students and hiring principals — before getting a final nod.

World Compass and Global Village were among six charters that submitted letters of intent to DCSD in March. The others — including John Adams High School, Parker Performing Arts School and Colorado Early Colleges high school — chose not to move forward this year or failed to meet district criteria, according to DCSD’s development and innovation officer, Pat McGraw.

Students at Global Village Academy, which opened in Aurora in 2007, spend at least half of each day immersed in Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, French or German. Global Village opened a Northglenn campus two years ago, and this fall will open schools in Colorado Springs and Fort Collins.

Douglas County was a natural choice for its fifth campus, CEO Christina Howe said.

“We have had up to 55 students coming from Parker to our Aurora campus and there have been multiple-year requests to please open a school in Douglas County,” she said. “We do consider ourselves part of the portfolio of school choice the district is offering.”

Howe said typical language programs teach students to “train and menu” proficiency levels, giving them enough mastery to travel by train or order from a menu in a foreign country. By eighth grade, Howe said, Global Village students’ foreign language skills are equivalent to a first-year high school student in the language’s native country.

Global Village seeks land along the Interstate 25 corridor, likely on its east side.

World Compass Academy, founded by a former Douglas County teacher, will include early foreign language education in French, Mandarin and Spanish and a research-based curriculum its website describes as challenging.

Bethany Merkling taught at a charter school in Utah and at DCSD’s American Academy. Now a stay-at-home mom, Merkling said she found long waiting lists at area charter schools.

“I wanted to make sure (my kids) had the opportunity to have the best education they possibly could, and to be able to learn a foreign language in kindergarten,” Merkling said. “I studied in France, and I’ve got some really strong ideas. I want to take the best from all the schools I attended.”

World Compass board members include natives of Switzerland, Hong Kong and Thailand among others, bringing the international viewpoints Merkling sees as key to the school’s success.

The school will serve pre-K through fourth grades upon its opening, adding a grade level annually to eventually become a K-8 school. To date, more than 200 parents have submitted intent-to-enroll forms for World Compass, Merkling said.

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