School board votes on whether to close state's largest school

9:53 PM, Feb 6, 2013   |    comments
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KUSA - When Rachel Free enrolled her son Jackson in 3rd grade at the Colorado Virtual Academy, she says it has made a tremendous difference in his academic success. But, Wednesday night, the Adams 12 Five Star School Board may vote to close the online school.

"I do have to admit, I'm a little nervous about it," said Free.
Colorado Virtual Academy or COVA is a public charter school with more than 4,400 kindergarten through 12th grade students across the state. Not only is it the biggest cyberschool in Colorado, it is the biggest school period.

Wednesday night, the school board with the Adams 12 school district will vote on whether to re-authorize the charter of the charter school. However, district leaders have expressed concerns over the academic performance of COVA over the years.

"In general, they're not showing improvement, they tend to be flat or declining in most areas," said Superintendent Chris Gdowski in an interview with 9News in December.

Free and a dozens of other COVA families gathered at the Capitol on Wednesday as part of the nationwide campaign called Digital Learning Day. Free and other parents don't believe that COVA should be judged on test scores alone.

"There's more to individual students and to school as a whole than test scores," said Free. "I think you just can't measure a school by test scores because not everyone tests well."

Shellie Miller enrolled her son, Noah, in 5th grade. She says the program can be life-changing.

"As far as my son, it has been a wonderful experience," said Miller. "He's getting A's and B's. He was failing in regular school."

Noah says he likes learning online.

"I actually think they're doing a really good job," said Noah.
But, Gdowski told 9News in December that COVA's attrition rate and graduation rate are concerns. He said that COVA impacts the district's overall scores by bringing them down about 9 percent, which is another reason for possible closure.

"I hate to think that that might happen," said Free. "If that's the case, we'll do our research and explore other options for him."

When 9News reached out to COVA school leaders about any comments before the school board vote, they did not respond. But, in December, COVA's director Mary Gifford said that she was implementing aggressive reforms to improve the school's academic performance.

Free just hopes she can attend next year's cyberschool rally as a COVA family, once again.

"My hope is that the school board and the people who are going to make this decision are going to listen," said Free. "Listen to the parents and know that this choice is a valuable choice and it's necessary and let COVA continue."

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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