Frequently Asked Questions
Why Classical Education Option in Woodland Park?
Trends in education reveal a desire for choice among schools within districts, no matter how phenomenal or unique that public school system. Local Ute Pass families have also expressed this need. As a classical, Core Knowledge® public charter school, Merit Academy will provide a choice in the district that many families are currently seeking elsewhere: Choice of classical curriculum, choice of greater parental involvement, choice of community governance, choice of charter school flexibility. Merit Academy will give our families a local choice in the Ute Pass Area and may pull families up the pass who seek a classical education in a pristine and beautiful community.
Is there tuition to attend Merit Academy?
No. Merit Academy will not charge tuition. It is funded by per pupil rate, like other public schools. However, we will also pursue additional funding revenues, including grants, donations, and a couple of purposeful school fundraisers.
Will you teach the whole child?
Yes! Our curriculum is designed to train mind, body, and spirit, through our attention on the liberal arts, sciences, virtues, habit and exploratory study and practice of each of these topics.
I see many classical schools require a uniform. Will Merit Academy require a uniform?
Yes. There is a strong correlation between student appearance and perception of excellence. Additional reasons for the uniform dress code include:
Foster a distinct and positive Merit Academy appearance
Increase commitment to MA's core values and beliefs.
Discourage divisiveness or cliques and encourage core cohesion and respect
Increase student parity
Please see UNIFORM GUIDELINES
How big are class sizes?
While it is hard to project at these early stages, our goal is to have smaller class sizes, typically 16-22 students per class in K-5; 20-24 per class in grades 6-12. The younger grades will fall on the smaller spectrum of class size. We will also have educator support through paraprofessionals and volunteer parents to further allow quality attention to our students.
What is the policy regarding grades and homework?
In alignment with our virtues, particularly perseverance, goodness, and responsibility, Merit Academy includes homework as part of the learning process. Not only is it sound practice to further deepen understanding of the concepts, it also informs guardians of what is being taught. Furthermore, homework and exam preparation are tools to teach students the lifeskills and habits of self-discipline, responsibility, organization, and meeting deadlines.
Reading is proven to be one of the strongest indicators of college and career success. It is important for students to experience the wonder of words, the magic of transforming to another world or story and getting lost in characters, symbolism, plot, etc. In that, students of Merit Academy, at all levels, are encouraged to read at least 20 min. a day, outside of the school day. Reading to young students is a great way for parents to model and engage with their children.
Students are expected to learn and display the virtues of perseverance, goodness, and responsibility when it comes to school work. Students are expected to give their best effort. Grades are not the primary result, they are secondary to learning and mastery. However, people need feedback and measures to gauge where they are in the process and provide guidance on what may be done to further develop skills and thought. Included in grades are the cornerstones of perseverance and responsibility, which support timely submission of required assignments. Upon feedback from parent and educator committees, the Board will design policy regarding late submission, grades, and description of these connections to habit, perseverance, goodness, and responsibility.
Will Merit Academy require licensure of teachers?
Teachers, nurses, counselors and other support service providers will have appropriate certification. Guest lecturers, college course adjuncts, or other specialists will also be experts in their field, with extensive experience, qualifications, and educational background.
In fact, Merit Academy follows a guideline often practiced by universities. We pride ourselves in finding highly qualified subject-matter experts who are passionate about the course topic, and find joy and meaning in working with children in the quest for knowledge and understanding. Scientists are science teachers, mathematicians are math teachers, practicing psychologists are psychology instructors, and they embrace the positive relationships with children while teaching their subjects.
Because of our teachers' practical application, experience, and mastery, our students are not passive in receipt of knowledge. In fact, these pupils actively engage in discussion, exploration, and inquiry with Merit Academy's experts.
What Is Your Stance on Vaccines?
We believe vaccines are a parent's choice. We will not push or try to persuade our parents to vaccinate, or to not vaccinate. That is a parental decision.
The State does require parents to complete a vaccination waiver, if they choose to not vaccinate children. We would encourage parents to complete the form, as a declaration of their parental rights to not vaccinate their children.
How involved are parents/guardians?
Family involvement is imperative to build the strongest foundation for learning, thinking, and wonder. It is strengthens an education culture. Modeling the virtues and becoming involved in the school community not only engages the child in their own learning journey, but it builds support for both family and school.
If guardians are unable to volunteer in the building, in the classrooms, through committees, or chaperone events, they can support students during reading and homework time. There will be other ample opportunities to support a scholar's education and educational organization, and these will be shared throughout the term of the school year.
What is An Enrollment Lottery? How Does it Work?
Schools of Choice are required to hold lotteries for registration when the number of enrolling students exceeds the number of students allowed by charter agreement between District and School. So, if the school is permitted to have 250 students for that particular year of growth, and 270 have signed up to enroll, a lottery takes place. If those extra 20 students are dispersed among 4 grades (and the remaining grades are within limits), then those 4 grades hold a random drawing (lottery) to see which students are selected for admittance. However, those students who are returning students are automatically provided seat. The lottery is for new students on the enrollment list. Siblings of current students are also provided high priority for seating and likely will not need to participate in lottery.
Once the lottery is drawn, families will be notified of their selection and will have three days to commit to enrollment before another student will be notified of the open seat.
Classical schools similar to Merit Academy often have waitlists and lottery enrollments, particularly as the charter school grows. This is why it is important to complete the Intent to Enroll form if you are interested in this type of education for your children.
Don't Choice Schools Steal Money From Districts?
(These families are also taxpayers in our community)
It is important to address the natural, albeit misinformed, concerns that independent public schools will steal money from the public school district. This is not entirely accurate. Traditional budgeting is based on per pupil funding and it is held in the overall district budgeting funds. Districts in cities like Denver and San Francisco realize the shifts in education also mean shifting budgeting practices, and many have distributed per pupil funds to the public school where the students attend, in order to more efficiently manage enrollment adjustments and ensure non-instructional costs properly flex with student population within that district. This is how the choice school works: the funding follows the student. The student is still a local student, at a public school, and the per pupil funding goes to the school of attendance.
This is important when one considers that choice-in school families are also tax payers (district owners) of our community. Remember: Public school districts do not own students, nor can they dictate to parents to which school they should send their children.
In all public school settings, families choice-out of district, and one rarely hears the argument that "out of district" choice is stealing funds from in-district, especially when districts do not have other educational options like charter schools, but that is the argument to be made. In fact, WPSD has lost over 200 students in the past three years. Additionally, Merit Academy's students are not all coming from WPSD. In fact, of the 230+ students who have intended to enroll, only 90 state that if there was no Merit, the would attend WPSD. Other families would seek other options, thus the funding number to examine is the 90 students.
The goal for enrollment is to keep local students in our area by providing an educational choice in Merit Academy. Another objective is to bring families up the pass who seek a classical school option, founded, run, and governed by local families and experts, in a beautiful setting. Parents are tired of the long wait lists for the classical charter schools in high demand in the Colorado Springs area.. Our review of other options for Merit Academy's way forward still supports both goals.
Let's say a set of resident families suggest opening a small locally-owned Italian restaurant in Woodland Park. Folks who enjoy the larger, dominant barbeque spot protest. They cite that the main eatery, the barbeque restaurant, is managing and serving those faithful patrons, therefore, there should be no need for the small Italian restaurant. Worse, if the small Italian restaurant opens, it will be the sole cause for the larger barbeque restaurant's decline. In a free market system, this lacks common sense.
The enrollment and movement of students for the past several years suggests Woodland Park needs the "Italian restaurant" to draw more patrons and improve the overall "dining numbers" and experiences in the area.
What is Merit's policy on screen time?
Absent the extreme case of virtual schooling due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most classical education institutions rely on the written word and copies of original works in hand. Even through the closures, many schools continued teaching great works found in classical literature, science, and mathematical proofs, while connecting, presenting, and discussing through virtual means.
There is a vast amount of evidence through scientific studies regarding improved learning and neurological response by writing with pen vs. typing on a keyboard. There is also tremendous neurological research on the significance of reading paper books vs. spending time on a computer screen. However, this is not to say we will not use modern technology or don't offer computer sciences or other technology courses. Screen time is strategically used in the classroom and with purpose. Technology science courses offered are the most updated, providing a classical education for modern times.
The traditional classroom limits outside distractions to support a better focus on the lesson being taught in a disciplined environment. In this, the school will have a no-cell phone policy for students.
What about In-Service Day Camps?
We know working families struggle with finding arrangements to care for their children during teacher professional development days. Depending on student and family need, Merit Academy will provide families with an optional day camp for students during those teacher professional development days. These will be fun camps, incorporating art, science, crafts or the like. Which activities are offered will depend on the desire and input of our families and students. There will be a fee involved, unless a family qualifies for the free and reduced lunch or fee waivers.
We also understand the need for consistency in scheduling, and will work hard to keep the bell schedule and calendar consistent, barring any unforeseen issue beyond our control.