Leadville News – January 24

Part II – School Choice: Greater Heights / Home Sweet Home

By Kathy Bedell, © Leadville Today

School Choice: The ABCs of 123s. This week marks National School Choice Week (NSCW) which celebrates all of the K – 12 education options that parents can choose for their kids. In essence, it means giving parents the power to select the best education environments for their children.

Greater Heights students

Students from Greater Heights Academy display the We ♥ Leadville signs they recently used as a fundraiser for the art program at the Leadville public charter school. Photo: GHA Facebook Page

This is the second in a three-part series regarding #SchoolChoice for those living in Leadville and Lake County. Part I focused on the Lake County School District (LCSD), their enrollment numbers and recent strides in facility and testing improvements. Coming up in Part III, Leadville Today (LT) will present the enrollment picture for neighboring school districts in Buena Vista, as well as Summit and Eagle Counties. The numbers are significant and add to the bottom line $1,266,212.00 that the LCSD will forfeit from their  2017/18 operating budget. Stay tuned for that story tomorrow.

But in today’s post, LT keeps the proverbial school bus closer to home with other #SchoolChoice options available to parents that don’t require leaving town.

Soaring to Great Heights

Leadville’s public charter school option, Greater Heights Academy (GHA), made a shift in its model this year by cutting off enrollment at the 8th grade.  As a result their enrollment numbers dropped significantly to 25 students. Based on last year’s enrollment numbers, that means that 10 high school-aged students had to find another place to get their education, which could account for the increase in enrollment at this grade level headed down to Buena Vista this year.

In partnership with Hope Online Learning Academy Co-op, GHA offers K-8 curriculum in small classroom settings, and makes use of computer labs to round out their curriculum. The school’s physical location is in the Baptist Church located at 1600 Harrison Avenue in Leadville. Here is the official breakdown by grade for GHA students:

  • 1st grade – 4 students
  • 2nd grade – 1 student
  • 3rd grade – 2 students
  • 4th grade – 4 students
  • 5th grade – 3 students
  • 6th grade – 7 students
  • 7th grade – 2 students
  • 8th grade – 2 students
Their mission statement reads:

Greater Heights Academy is dedicated to nurturing each child’s individual potential and love for learning by guiding students to academic excellence and social responsibility. Greater Heights’ blended curriculum harnesses the power of exploration and discovery, motivating students in their quest for knowledge. Critical involvement between school, family, community, and the natural world encourages academic success and instills a lifelong passion for learning.


Students from Great Heights Academy enjoy some online learning time at Leadville’s Vertex Workspace. Photo: GHA

Now in its 11th year, the GHA school choice was established at the height of frustration for Leadville parents concerning discipline issues in the school district. Simply put, many didn’t feel that their children were safe in the classroom. Since then, the Lake County School District has made progress in addressing those concerns. However, it’s worth noting that the tally for these 25 students represents more than a $200,000 loss to the district’s budget this year alone.

“It’s important to have choices within your community,” Greater Heights Academy Director Marvin Sandoval stated in an interview with Leadville Today. “You have the ability to choose what’s best for your child and your child’s needs in Lake County, and that’s what we need to continue to have.”

Open enroll for GHA begins next month (February) for the 18/19 school year. Parents may call Sandoval directly at 720-693-3245 to schedule a tour of the school or check out the Greater Heights Academy website for more details.

Home Sweet Home

Some Lake County families opt for homeschooling, an increasingly popular choice for Colorado parents. Most who go this route site two primary reasons for  homeschooling: religious/moral instruction or dissatisfaction with academic instruction offered by the local school district. Leadville often sees an even split on these choices.

For parents considering this choice, there are hundreds of resources for the would-be homeschoolers in Colorado. However, take note, a well-rounded knowledge of applicable laws and standards of homeschooling is necessary before taking on the big task of do-it-yourself education. 

It’s important to note that over the years, the Lake County School District has been pro-active in making sure that the Leadville home-school community has the academic support it needs, as well as integrating these students socially through group activities and participation in the district’s extracurricular activities and sporting teams and events.

The Lake County School District has confirmed there are currently 14 students being homeschooled in Leadville Today. Last January, that number was 19. In hard core dollars and sense, based on the per pupil dollar amount outlined in the REVISED FINAL BUDGET, that’s $112,196.00 that the local school district won’t see this year.

Museum Night_Great Heights post

Students from Greater Heights Academy in Leadville spent the night in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science with teacher Lisa Sandoval last May. The program provides a hand-on learning experience and fun! Photo: Hope Online Learning.

And finally, Part II of this report would be remiss if it did not make note of High Mountain Institute (HMI) located in Lake County. This school enrolls high-school-aged students, and according to their website: The High Mountain Institute engages students with the natural world. Our school boldly unites rigorous intellectual inquiry, experiential learning, wilderness expeditions, and shared responsibility in a strong community. Our students realize their potential—as leaders, independent thinkers, and thoughtful citizens.

While this Lake County based educational institution does offer a popular alternative “HMI year” for two Lake County students each year, a majority of their students are coming from out of state. You can read more about HMI on their website.

Well, that’s a wrap for Part II of the Leadville Today School Choice series. Tomorrow LT heads out of town, reporting on the out-of-district #SchoolChoice  numbers, heading north, south and west. Of course, LT welcomes your feedback, which you can do privately via email at info@leadvilletoday.com or join the conversation on LT’s social media platforms.

Journalist Kathy Bedell owns The Great Pumpkin, A Media Company located in Leadville, Colorado which publishes LeadvilleToday.com and SaguacheToday.com.



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