Plans Unveiled for New Charter School In Woodland Park

Group Plans to Foster A Classical, Greek-style of Education

~ by Trevor Phipps ~

After conducting studies for more educational options in the Ute Pass area, a steering committee has proposed a plan to open up a new charter school in Woodland Park.

The school, preliminarily named the Merit Academy Classical Charter School,  has not yet been approved  by the district.  This may require the okay by the Woodland Park RE-2 District Board of Education.

But the group has plans to possibly open up their academy in fall of 2021.

 According to school steering committee member Jason Ledlie, the group came up with the idea of starting a charter school in the area after doing research on where children in the region were attending school. After reviewing statistics made public by the U.S. Census Bureau, Ledlie and his team noticed that there were a significant number of students who lived locally that were attending school in the Colorado Springs area for various reasons. Further research indicated that many parents were choosing to take their kids to charter schools that employed a classical style of learning.

 “Looking at data available from the district regarding enrollment or from the Colorado Department of Education, you can arrive at the approximation that at any time in the past three years or recent years there is approximately 750 to 900 students that live in the district that are not enrolled in school here because they are choosing…. some other alternative,” Ledlie said.

“And so, we looked at that figure and said, ‘My goodness!’ approximately 750 to 900 students feel like there’s an implied need for another choice. So, really the discussion centered around, might we be up for the task of trying to be that choice or meet that need.”

Before the proposed alternative to education option could come to the area, the charter school would have to get approved by the local Woodland Park RE-2 School District. This most likely would require a favorable vote by the school board.  If approved, the Merit Academy would serve as another choice for types of education available in the local area. Just like the RE-2 District, students in the region could attend classes at no cost to their families.

Ledlie compared the need for more options for education to the desire for more diverse flavors at local restaurants. “I don’t think about it as there is a benefit of going to our schools over attending public schools,” Ledlie explained. “I think part of the way we think about it is that there are a few barbecue restaurants in Woodland Park, and we all eat at barbecue places sometimes. But, if an Italian food restaurant would open, some of us would probably go eat Italian food, too. It would be more from preferential standpoint, than a benefit over another type of cuisine.”

Ledlie also said that the group feels that some people move away from the area because their students attend school in the Colorado Springs area. According to Ledlie, his steering committee wants to use the new charter school plan as a way to keep residents in the region in the future.

Classical Learning Like The Greeks

The Merit Academy board member also said that the classical way of learning has been gaining popularity recently, and that some parents are intrigued by this method of education. “It’s education like the Greeks did education,” Ledlie said.

According to the board member, the school will consist of a “Trivium” of learning stages. The education process starts with the school of grammar. This is the equivalent to the RE-2  elementary school except that it places an emphasis of attainment and retention of objective knowledge.

The second part of the Trivium is called the school of logic, which is equivalent to the local middle school. However, the school of logic places an emphasis on applying critical thinking to what has been learned during the first five years of education.

The last part of the Trivium of classical learning is coined as the school of rhetoric, which is a learning option for high school aged students. During this stage of learning, students learn how to continue to pursue knowledge and use what they have learned to create a belief set.

According to the Merit Academy website, “Merit Academy founded on the principles of civic responsibility, intellectual growth, and desire for good.” The school describes itself as a classical style of learning for modern times being focused on producing successful people in a free society.

The school’s philosophy describes the academy as having a curriculum that is focused heavily on liberal arts, science, and history. But instead of studying text books, students will learn from “living books, which are written or narrated by authors with a tremendous passion and knowledge of the topic.” The school also plans to incorporate the outdoors with their curriculum in various subjects.

The next step for the charter school to move forward is to get approved by the local school district. If the process is successful, the Merit Academy could have students attending their school during the 2021-2022 school year. The academy plans first to lease a building in the area, and then they plan to build their own facility in the future.