SVVSD approves 15-year reauthorization for St. Vrain Community Montessori

·3 min read

Jan. 27—The St. Vrain Valley school board on Wednesday granted St. Vrain Community Montessori a 15-year renewal of its charter authorization, fulfilling a request by school leaders as they continue an effort to move to a permanent campus.

The 230-student K-8 school, which opened in the fall 2009, is in two rented buildings and two modular classrooms in an industrial area of south Longmont. There's no dedicated space for a gym, library or cafeteria.

The setup fails to meet basic, common-sense safety standards or provide the spaces needed for the educational program, school leaders said. Facility constraints also prevent the school from adding students, with only about 20% of applicants getting spots each year, to create a more sustainable program, they said.

The pandemic also has exacerbated the challenges around lack of space. This school year, for example, students in the upper elementary are eating lunch sitting on the floor of the assembly room to meet health department requirements for physical distance, school leaders said.

"It's been a for sure very challenging past couple of years," said Katie Torres, Community Montessori's head of school.

St. Vrain Valley decided not to include a new building for the charter school in its last capital construction bond issue, instead offering an undeveloped 10-acre property on Quail Road in Longmont known as the Sisters of St. Francis Property.

The initial plan, according to school leaders, was for the school to work with the district to renegotiate an existing Boulder County conservation easement that restricted development of the site. Then the school would work with Longmont to develop the site so an interim facility could be built in the short-term. An interim facility would be used until a permanent school could be financed, school leaders said.

But developing the land has proven difficult.

While the conservation easement changes were approved in 2018, the process took two years to complete. The school is still working with the city on approval of its land development plans. The best case scenario, school leaders said, has the school placing modular buildings on the property for older students by fall 2023.

School leaders are asking the district to include money for a permanent building in its next request to voters for a capital construction bond issue.

While the school board didn't address the request for inclusion in a future bond issue, board members praised the school's achievement and financial planning.

Board member Richard Martyr called the school's academic achievements "compelling," adding the board's approval to authorize the school for an additional 15 years "constitutes a real vote of confidence."

In other business, the school board accepted a $1.4 million pledge from the Morgridge Family Foundation for a planned $8 million Innovation Center expansion. The foundation agreed to donate $1 million toward the expansion and $400,000 for programming over four years.

Expansion plans include a new space to host local and regional robotics competitions and a teacher training center.