National School Choice Week

It’s been 25 years since Colorado implemented open enrollment at public schools, allowing students to attend schools outside their neighborhoods.

Still, some parents don’t seem to realize that many options are available today, said Michelle Velbis, principal of Springs Adventist Academy, a K-8 Christian school that emphasizes core values.

“Sometimes parents aren’t happy with their school situations, but they don’t have to be stuck,” she said. “If they do a little research, they’d find they have more choice than they know.”

There’s now a bevy of traditional schools, charter schools, online academies, private and religious schools, magnet schools, home school opportunities and hybrid models.

Schools are fueled by the awareness that “one size doesn’t fit all,” said Deborah Hendrix, executive director of Parents Challenge. The Colorado Springs nonprofit provides scholarships and support for low-income students to attend schools of their choice.

“There appears to be more collaboration with districts and charter schools and private schools in terms of providing parents with as many options or opportunities to ensure their child or scholar gets the best education,” she said.

To kick off National School Choice Week, which runs Sunday through Feb. 1, Parents Challenge will hold a community fair from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at The Space Foundation’s Discovery Center, 4425 Arrowswest Drive.

Booths from 60 exhibitors will promote public, private and religious, charter, home school and online education, as well as higher education, organizations such as the Pikes Peak Library District and Scouting, and services such as tutoring. The Switchbacks soccer team also will be on hand.

“It’s really designed to provide parents with information regarding the educational options available for their scholars,” Hendrix said. “It’s a fun event and an informational event.”

Other features include student performances, face painting and balloon artists.

This is the second annual community-wide fair in Colorado Springs during National School Choice Week, which raises awareness of school choice through about 50,000 events nationwide, including nearly 700 in Colorado.

Last year’s fair in Colorado Springs drew 500 attendees, with organizers expecting 1,000 this year.

Local school choice observances coincide with open enrollment periods at schools for the fall semester and the start of the 2020-21 school year.

At 3 p.m. Saturday at the Ent Center for the Arts, 5225 N. Nevada Ave., Parents Challenge will show a free screening of the film, “Miss Virginia.” The movie drama starring Uzo Aduba was inspired by the true story of education advocate Virginia Walden Ford, whose son’s school struggles led her to fight for school options for all families.

The movie was released in seven cities, but has not yet been shown in Colorado Springs, Hendrix said.

Tickets for 230 attendees will be available at the Choice Fair at the Discovery Center.

The screening is designed to kick-start conversation about K-12 education, Hendrix said. Choice has become a politically charged issue, with critics saying more school choice leads to less funding for the public school system, and proponents arguing that school choice should be a parental right based on students’ needs.

Individual schools also are to hold special events next week.

Corpus Christi Catholic School, for example, is hosting an open house and community spaghetti dinner on Feb. 1. The open house runs from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. for families interested in touring the preschool-to-eighth grade school. The spaghetti dinner in the school gym starts at 6 p.m.

Springs Adventist Academy will offer doughnuts of appreciation from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Jan. 30 for parents, students and staff.

“We’re going to be asking our parents to come into the school that morning instead of just dropping their kids off, to thank them for choosing to bring their children to our school,” Velbis said. “We know they could choose a different school, but they choose ours.”

Contact the writer: 719-476-1656

Contact the writer: 719-476-1656.

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