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New Medford charter school on track to meet fundraising goals

With just days to go until a June 30 deadline set by the Medford School Board, supporters of the Valley School of Southern Oregon, a proposed Montessori-style charter school for middle-schoolers, say they will meet a $100,000 fundraising requirement imposed by the board.

At the end of May, the Valley School had about half the money raised. The Valley School board and parents who plan to send their children to the school have been working to raise the money and are making sure the building they hope to use will be ready by fall.

"It's hard work starting a charter school," board member Amy Maukonen said. "But this method of teaching is something I believe in."

Board Chairwoman Andrea Dabbs-Partsafas estimated they have gained support from 60 to 70 donors, including businesses and private citizens. Maukonen said a key contribution is the support of the Walton Family Foundation, a philanthropic organization that financially supports charter schools across the country. 

The board is working to secure a building on Riverside Avenue in central Medford to house the school. Maukonen said they considered many buildings but decided on that structure, which has previously housed several restaurants, including Azteca and Marigolds, because it would work with their budget and was move-in ready. The charter school must obtain a conditional-use permit from the Medford Planning Commission to use the space. It also must install a fire-alarm system and make other renovations, which will cost upward of $10,000.

Maukonen said some of the costs for organization and renovation have already been incurred, so the money from Walton Family Foundation is available to cover those costs if necessary to ensure that the $100,000 target is met by month's end.

Charter schools operate largely independently, with their own boards, but each must obtain permission from the school district in which it locates. The Medford board gave its approval in May, but expressed concerns about the Valley School's finances and set the requirement that the new school have $100,000 in hand at the end of June.

Kaylee Tornay is a reporting intern for the Mail Tribune. Reach her at ktornay@mailtribune.com.