Pat Hill /Pikes Peak Courier

Nicole Waggoner is one of a group of parents who have proposed initiating the Merit Academy, a charter public school, in Woodland Park.

The proposed Merit Academy moved a step closer this month to opening a K-10 charter school in Woodland Park next year.

A recent public meeting affirmed the support of the parents of at least 160 students. “Our goal for Year One is 155,” said Nicole Waggoner, who with Kimberly Porter, John Dill and Jason Ledlie, led the drive to open a charter school. “We realize not everybody is going to come but we figure about 75 percent will.”

The decision to approve a charter school within the Woodland Park School District depends upon final approval of the five-member board of education.

Last month, the academy founders submitted a 475-page application document to the district, which has up to 90 days to review and rule on the application. “We feel very confident that the charter is going to be approved,” Waggoner said. “And then we can start the process of going through grant and loan applications to secure money to build a school for Year Two.”

In the meantime, the founders are negotiating with several churches in the effort to secure classroom space for next year. While the charter would be part of WPSD, the founders have no intention of seeking a share in the voter-approved 1.09% sales tax, funds designated for the schools, Waggoner said.

“The school is not funded by the taxpayers but through grants and loans,” she said. However, the charter school would benefit from the property taxes designated for the school district, Waggoner added.

The curriculum will include special-education classes and the school would offer food service for students.

Of the 160 students whose parents have expressed interest, 90 of them are not currently enrolled in WPSD. “So, we have 90 kids we’re going to bring back to the community,” Waggoner said. “I feel like the momentum is growing.”

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