Big changes are ahead for Jeffco charter school Free Horizon Montessori, which will become a Jeffco option school this fall, and move into the former Pleasant View Elementary building in Golden.
The Jeffco School Board unanimously approved the change and the school’s application for innovation status on May 3. Free Horizon’s Board of Directors and Accountability Committee also approved the Innovation Plan unanimously.
Free Horizon Montessori families and staff welcomed the move. Jennifer Stickel, president of the Free Horizon Board of Directors, told board members that 97 percent of Free Horizon parents were in favor of the move. Another 3 percent were indifferent, and no parents opposed the move.
In addition, 88 percent of Free Horizon teachers and 77 percent of staff also voted in favor of the move. Only 4 percent of teachers and 7 percent of staff opposed the move, Stickel said.
Karlynn Cory, a Free Horizon Montessori parent, told Jeffco School Board members she supported the move during public comment at the April 5 board meeting. The West Pleasant View Neighborhood Association also said they fully supported moving Free Horizon into the Pleasant View building.
Free Horizon Montessori will pursue Innovation Status
The next step is for Jeffco to submit the Innovation Plan application to the State Board of Education for approval.
Free Horizon requires innovation status because some components of the Montessori model do not align with state requirements. The school received waivers for those issues as a charter school. As an option school, innovation status allows Free Horizon to stay true to the Montessori educational model.
The agreement included a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will guide the governance document between the school and district. Key elements include a review every three years — as required by law. It also includes an option for Free Horizon to choose to go through the charter renewal process at that time if desired.
Tim Matlick, Jeffco’s charter school achievement director, explained that if Free Horizon chose to renew its charter school status, it would be through a two-year process that would allow the school time to purchase or lease a different facility.
Free Horizon approached the district about making the change, Principal Kresta Vuolo told the Jeffco School Board. Free Horizon was looking to move and wanted to be located within a community, she said. The school is currently located about a mile away from the Pleasant View building.
Jeffco Schools researched several options for the Pleasant View building after the neighborhood school closed in May 2017. At a December community meeting, staff tallied 35 comments that favored using the site as a school out of approximately 40 total comments.
Free Horizon Montessori has been a Jeffco charter school since 2002.