Preschool and charter school in north Routt County merge |

Preschool and charter school in north Routt County merge

The North Routt Community Charter School in Clark now owns the land the school is built on after a donation from the Stranahan Family. (Photo by Dylan Anderson)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The North Routt Early Childhood Center and the North Routt Community Charter School are now one school, with the two schools merging at the beginning of the year.

The merge hopes to create more seamless educational opportunities for North Routt families, as while as ensuring the school is financially sustainable into the future.

Originally, the charter school was in an old school house down the street from where it is now, complete with classrooms in a converted barn. But when the school got a state BEST grant to fund a new building, there were not a lot of options to build.

The place that made the most sense was next to the existing preschool, creating one educational campus, said Brandon LaChance, executive director of the school. He said this was the vision of the Stranahan Family, who have long owned land around Clark.

“Ann and Steve Stranahan ultimately had the bigger vision that no one really understood, which was to get both campuses together to long-term have one educational North Routt campus,” LaChance said.

They allowed the school to be built on the land near the preschool initially, and when the two schools completed the merger earlier this year, the deed for the land was transferred to the school, giving the school ownership of the property.

“It was a 50-year lease, we weren’t going to get it pulled out from underneath us, but ultimately, it is a really good way to make sure we are focusing on what we need to focus on, which is our school,” he said.

Part of what has taken them until now to complete the merger, LaChance said, is that the preschool had debt from when the building was built, making it difficult for the charter school, a public entity, to absorb the preschool while it had financial liabilities.

He said that several partners, including local residents, have been working together over the past few years to pay off the debt and were able to about a year and a half ago.

“The last three years, the biggest focus was to buy down that mortgage,” LaChance said.

The schools will still be in the same buildings, but the merger will result in one seven-member board overseeing everything rather than two different boards. Essentially, the preschool closed, then reopened the next day under a new name.

LaChance said it made more sense to have one group of people coordinating education for students in North Routt rather than two different ones focused on different aged students.

“What it does for us is everything,” said LaChance. “Now we can say that we support programming from two years old to eighth grade.”

The largest part of the merge, he said, is it allows each school to consolidate resources and staff between the two schools. LaChance also noted that the charter school and preschool were two of the three main things in Clark, and it made sense for them to be united.

LaChance serves as executive director for both schools while each has its own leader, with Libby Meyring serving as principal for kindergarten through eighth grade and Lennae Jenkins serving as director of early childhood education.

The merge will happen in two phases, the first of which — unifying the schools finances, resources, staff, bookkeeping and other needs — has already begun. Phase two, focused on the curriculum, will start this summer.

The new curriculum will better align the early childhood center with the philosophy at the charter school, and training will begin to involve faculty from both schools by August.

“It is a big deal for us,” LaChance said. “In the town of Clark, there is a store, there is a preschool, and there is a K-8 school. Ultimately, two of those things are together now, and that’s just a pretty cool story.”

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