Charter School Can't Find A Facility


The 60 students who enrolled this summer in Life School College Preparatory -- a charter school scheduled to open in Payson this month -- will have to wait at least until January to begin taking classes at the school.

The school's opening day was pushed back five months because a suitable building couldn't be found during a six-month search, local Life School Director and teacher Patrick Tatum said Monday.

"We ran into so many problems trying to lease, we decided to look for a piece of property to buy instead," he said. "We're looking for a two-acre parcel with an option on additional property. Right now everything is in flux."

Once the land has been bought, Tatum plans to install an 1,800-square-foot modular building on the property and open the school with two classrooms. If all goes well, he said he could begin holding classes by mid-school-year in January.

Eventually, a permanent school will be built on the site, Tatum said. It will be at least 3,600 square feet, housing three large classrooms and a small office, he said.

The project will be funded by Life School College Preparatory, which holds the state's oldest charter and operates seven Arizona schools -- four in Mesa, one in Show Low, one in St. Johns and one in Gila Valley.

The school in Payson, which will be funded through the state, will be open to students in fifth through eighth grades and is expected to relieve some classroom pressure at Rim Country Middle School, which was near capacity with 665 students last year.

Nevertheless, middle school Principal Frank Larby said this latest setback won't significantly affect the middle school.

"It would have offered us some relief," he said, "but we never took those kids off our rolls, so it won't have a huge impact on us. We're ready."

Life School, which emphasizes mastery of subjects, provides students with a more intimate and focused educational environment than traditional public schools can provide, Tatum said earlier this spring.

"Students must master their subjects," he said. "They must earn an average of 85 percent on each test or assignment. If they fail, they're given opportunities to redo their work until they pass that 85-percent mark.

"We don't do social passing, we insist on parent involvement, we develop individual learning plans for each student and we mentor the students."

For more information, call Tatum at 474-0972.

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