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  • Kids Unlimited reaches charter school milepost

  • Anew charter school run by Kids Unlimited could open in the Medford School District as early as August, school organizers said Tuesday.
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  • Anew charter school run by Kids Unlimited could open in the Medford School District as early as August, school organizers said Tuesday.
    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 continuously under revision was deemed complete by the district.
    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.
    "This has been three years of diligent research," Cole said. "It's really rewarding, and this gives us a chance to continue this dream."
    Kids Unlimited staff have traveled to charter schools across the country, Cole said, 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. It would 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 target at-risk youth who might otherwise struggle to graduate from high school. It would expect students to attend 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 having a target population in mind, the school must accept any student who applies, based on the number of openings — 50 per grade for the first year. Priority will be given to students living within Medford School District boundaries.
    The board will work with district administration over the next 60 days to determine whether they believe the charter would be financially viable for the district, according to Julie Evans, district director of elementary education.
    The Oregon Department of Education states that the purpose of creating charter schools is to "take responsible risks to create new, innovative, more flexible ways of educating all children within the public school system."
    Evans said the district would look to this idea when considering whether VIBES should be a part of the district.
    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 90 minutes earlier.
    Classes would begin at 7:30 a.m. and run until 5:30 or 6 p.m., instead of the 7:55 a.m. to 2:35 p.m. schedule at 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.
    Under Oregon statutes for charter schools, the school would receive at least 80 percent of per-pupil funds for each student through the Medford School District, with extra funding given based on the number of ELL and poverty-stricken students.
    If the target enrollment of 300 is reached in 2013-14, this would amount to $1.7 million passed through from the district to VIBES. Other funding would come through grants and community support, the application said.
    Under the timeline for the Medford School Board, a public hearing will likely take place at one of the next two scheduled board meetings, Feb. 25 or March 11.
    Medford School Board members were given copies of the completed VIBES application at Monday's board meeting.
    Reach reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or tristow@mailtribune.com.
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