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State Board of Education directs closure of online charter school

For the first time in Colorado history, the State Board has voted to close a school for consistently low performance

DENVER — The Colorado State Board of Education has directed the Douglas County School District to revoke the charter for HOPE Online Learning Academy Elementary School. 

"The school had had nine consecutive years of low performance and the accountability laws in this state require the State Board to take action after five years," said Colorado Department of Education Chief Communications Officer Dana Smith.

In 2017, the state board directed the school to hire a management partner to help raise student achievement at the elementary and middle schools. 

The elementary school continued to receive Priority Improvement ratings from 2017 to 2019, which required HOPE to come back for additional direction from the state board, the department said.

The programs are online, but all of its 846 students statewide attend Action Learning Centers located around Colorado to receive face-to-face supports. Last year, those students scored in the fifth percentile in English and the third percentile in math, meaning well over 95% and 97%, respectively, of the rest of students in Colorado achieved higher results.

"After nine years of very low performance, something drastic needed to happen to make sure that these kids have a good opportunity to have a good quality education," Smith said.

Hope Online founder and CEO Heather O'Mara issued a statement:

“We are disappointed by the Colorado State Board of Education’s vote to instruct closure of HOPE Elementary School. After fulfilling the requests and instructions set forth by the Board at their meeting in January, we had faith that yesterday’s hearing would result in all parties working together to find a positive solution for the strong learning community we have built for traditionally underserved students across Colorado.

As we look ahead, we will continue to put our kids first. We will work with our families across the state and their resident school districts to help them find the best possible placement for their students to succeed and excel. We will also work closely with our Learning Center staff who are impacted by this decision to provide a transition plan to help them find placement at an alternative site.

In the meantime, we will continue to provide community supports for our elementary students and work together for a strong finish to the school year. We will never stop believing in our students and their potential for success in school and in life.”

Smith said this was a hard decision for the state board.

"They really wanted to do the right thing for students," Smith said. "They value the choices for students. But, in this case, the best thing was to make sure these kids can transition to another school." 

The district will be required to close the online charter school at the end of the 2019-20 school year. 

Governing Board Member Bill de la Cruz also issued a statement:

“Equitable access to a quality education is the most pressing challenge facing Colorado students today. The State Board’s vote to close HOPE Elementary removes a critical choice for students and families in communities across the state, and I believe it will be a setback in our work to achieve true systemic equity in Colorado.”

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The board will vote on an official written order to Douglas County School District within the next several days. State law requires schools that are closing to develop plans for communicating with families and ensuring students transition to other schools.

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