Kids Unlimited completes application for new charter school

A new charter school run by Kids Unlimited could open in the Medford School District as early as August, school organizers said today.

The VIBES charter school, a project of Kids Unlimited Director Tom Cole and his staff, has been in the works for three years, and an application constantly under revision was finally deemed complete by the district last week.

The Medford School Board now has 60 days to hold a public hearing on the charter school and decide whether to move forward with drafting a charter. It will gauge whether the charter school is finacially feasible.

"This has been three years of diligent research," Cole said. "It's really rewarding and this gives us a chance to continue this dream."

Cole said that Kids Unlimited staff has traveled to charter schools across the country, and spent time studying other communities faced with poverty to develop VIBES.

According to the 97-page VIBES application, the school would open in the fall as a K-5 school of 300 students, and add an additional grade each year until it reached 450 students in grades K-8.

Students would be taught in classrooms already in place at Kids Unlimited, at 821 N. Riverside Ave. in Medford.

The school would market through the community to target at-risk youth who might struggle to graduate from high school. It would expect students to continue attending VIBES through eighth grade, when they would transition to high school.

"We feel like we've garnered a lot of community support," Cole said.

Regardless of a target population, the school must accept any student who applies to attend, based on the number of openings — 50 per grade for the first year — with priority given to students living within Medford School District boundaries.

To set itself apart from the rest of the district, the school would feature an extended 186 days of instruction per year —16 more days than the rest of the district — and 27 fewer early-release days, when students in Medford are released an hour and a half earlier.

Classes would begin at 7:30 a.m. and run until 5:30 or 6 p.m., instead of 7:55 a.m. to 2:35 p.m. like other Medford elementary schools.

Students could eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at the school.

The school would hire 24 full-time employees, including 12 teachers, a principal, operations director and English Language Learner specialist.

— Teresa Ristow

Read more in the Mail Tribune on Wednesday.

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