Polis-founded ESL school in Gypsum will survive | SummitDaily.com

Polis-founded ESL school in Gypsum will survive

Lauren Glendenning
lglendenning@vaildaily.com
Gypsum, CO Colorado

Special to the DailyNew America School student Sara Virgen rests for a minute with a student from the Red Table preschool, where she volunteers. New America School students volunteer with the preschool and with Habitat for Humanity regularly through the school's student government class taught by Leah Teeters.

GYPSUM, Colorado ” The New America School in Gypsum isn’t going anywhere next year.

The school’s future was questionable in recent months when its board realized it needed about $500,000 to continue serving local English-language learners. Jared Polis, the school’s founder, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives last November, meaning he couldn’t contribute as much as he had the previous two years because of his ethical conflicts as a congressman.

His foundation was still able to give the $150,000 for the third year of the lease for the school’s property, but he wouldn’t be able to cover the operational costs of the school, said Craig Cook, chief of business operations for the New America School, which has three other campuses in the Denver area.

After some budget cuts and a call to the community, the school will have enough to open for the 2009-10 school year.

“We are doing fantastic,” said Kathy Brendza, the school’s principal.

The Eagle County School District just gave the school its accreditation last week, the same day seniors presented some “very impressive” final projects, Brendza said. The fact that the school isn’t closing its doors just adds to Brendza’s pride for her school, she said.

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The Eagle County Board of Commissioners gave the school a $20,000 grant, the El Pomar Foundation gave $25,000 and contributions from Vail Associates, an Eagle County Charter Academy bingo night and individual donors brought the total up to about $60,000, Cook said. Brendza and Cook cut some of the budget for the next school year to get New America School within about $20,000 of what it needs ” close enough that school officials can guarantee the school will be open.

“The school will absolutely be open for school year 2009-10, and it’s because of the hard work of Kathy and her staff and the generosity of the community, the hard work of her advisory committee and the (Eagle County) school district that have come around to support the school,” Cook said.

Brendza said the school will still be looking for individual contributions throughout the next several months. For now, she’s just excited to be able to tell her students they’ll have a school to go to next year.

“We’re so excited that we get to continue to offer this incredible opportunity for students,” she said.

New America School has just over 100 students this school year. The school offers students who are trying to learn English a flexible schedule of classes ” many students work or have children, so the schedule lets them live their lives and get an education.

“It gives them the opportunity for a high school diploma, which will make them better citizens when immigration reform comes,” Cook said. “It gives them an opportunity in a place where they can feel comfortable.”

The school makes learning opportunities available for all children and young adults in the county, said Mike Gass, director of secondary education for the Eagle County School District. Cook, a retired Army colonel, said those opportunities are necessary.

“There are some things that are right for our country, and this is one of them,” he said.