By Lisa Young
Vision Charter Academy (VAC) is taking bold new steps after receiving its renewal from Delta County School District last week. The district renewed the homeschool oversight organization for another four-year term beginning July 1, 2021.
“The district is super supportive and the renewal all went smoothly. It was very positive,” said Willyn Webb, VCA executive director.
According to the school district resolution, the district requested an agreed-upon deadline for VCA to identify adequate school facilities to be available prior to the start of the 2021-2022 academic year.
Webb said the district’s request came before they had the opportunity to tour the new facility in downtown Delta and review the community partnership locations as well as explore VCA’s future plans to expand at the new location.
After leaving two older district schools in Cedaredge and Paonia, VCA purchased Mason Reality at 263 Main Street last summer. VCA is now in the process of purchasing Yost Family Dentistry with plans to relocate resources from the Pioneer Road location and consolidate into one central location.
(For Clarification: Dr. Morgan Yost, owner of Yost Family Dentistry, wishes to clarify that Vision Charter Academy is not purchasing the business of Yost Family Dentistry. Dr. Yost wishes to reassure his patients that the business will remain at its present location until further notice.)
The move from the Pioneer Road location will also help with added security measures, Webb said. Now all students will check in through the front door at the main location eliminating multiple entrances.
“We combined three of those space to down here and we are saving a lot of money,” Webb said. “ And we’ve formed partnerships with other communities so, we are still fully serving all of Delta County.”
VCA has formed a number of community partnerships which allows them to serve over 400 learners and their families in Delta, Montrose, Mesa and Gunnison counties. VCA shares space at community locations such as the Grand Mesa Arts and Event Center in Cedaredge and the Creamery Arts Center in Hotchkiss as well as utilize space with several area business partners.
“I think it is critical that the public knows that even though our main hub might be in downtown Delta, that we are actually better serving all of our communities. There wasn’t a space in Montrose or Hotchkiss before, but because we have adopted this philosophy of sharing community spaces, we are right there in every community,” Webb said.
The move to the downtown Delta location allows VCA to move out of older district buildings and become an innovative 21st century homeschool learning model complete with a curriculum resource center, up to date technology, several modern meeting spaces for tutoring families, a training room and administrative offices.
Webb stressed that moving forward VCA will focus its attention on the homeschool model, a change from previous modeling where a more traditional school day as well as homeschool support took place at the Pioneer Road location.
“Going with this one path will streamline a lot of our decision making so, we will no longer have to figure out if a student is homeschooled or are they ‘class stay’? This way we can pour more of our time and effort into really great stuff like a math camp, or a cooking class,” Webb said.
“I think the direction is great because that (homeschooling) is where we came from, what our niche was and what we should be doing and we can do it really well in this space,” said Caryn Braddy, assistant director.
“And there’s no cost to families since we are able to use public funding,” Webb said, adding that Colorado is an open district state allowing for more family choices when it comes to education.
While accountable to the local school district, VCA is autonomous and able to function independently with its own school board. The school continues to build in ways to ‘set students up for success’ including adding more accountability and assessment measures.
Webb said the move has provided VCA with huge savings by cutting out the shared maintenance costs with the entire district and the cost of leasing other properties. Having everything under one roof will also allow VCA to provide better overall service including a state of the art science lab and the ability to livestream classes.
“Live streaming is better than an online class because students can interact with their peers. It’s a local teacher and a local group of kids,” Webb said.
When it comes to education, a “one size fits all” model is changing as new and innovative ways of educating children and teens have taken root and flourished over the years.
“I think that we fill a niche in this community. The district does what they do well. They do in-seat learning. I don’t think they have a lot of interest in being a ‘homeschool’ too. We do that for them in a way,” Webb said, “Because families want different things.”
“You know Vision has really evolved. We take that attitude that we’re teaching those families how to teach and we have such high quality curriculums... there’s so much support for homeschool families. We come along side them and teach them how to become really great homeschoolers.”
For Webb, providing the best education for the community comes down to both the district and VCA valuing each others contribution to education.
“We work together really well,” said Webb as she looks forward to a continued relationship with DCSD in the coming years.
Vision Charter Academy was first approved by the Delta County School District 50J in the summer of 2013 with the school becoming operational July 1, 2013.
During the fall of 2020 the school district met with the charter school to discuss the renewal process for the current contract to end on June 30, 2021. VCA’s last approval was on on April 19, 2017.
On Dec. 1, 2020 VCA submitted a charter school renewal application to the district. The matter was referred to the District Accountability Committee (“DAC”). DAC had indicated its support of the renewal application and on Dec. 10, 2020.
The school board held a formal hearing on the renewal at its Jan. 7 worksession with representatives from the charter school presented. Following the hearing, Superintendent Caryn Gibson recommended approval of the renewal application to be completed at the Jan. 21 school board meeting.