Pioneer School leaders consider charter status

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by STEN WALSTROM & KREM.com

KREM.com

Posted on December 18, 2013 at 5:42 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 18 at 7:40 PM

SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. -- Trying to ensure its longevity, a local school is weighing whether to take on charter status.

Betty Burley-Wolf, founder and CEO of Pioneer School, opened Pioneer as a private school in 1980 on land donated by her father.  She felt something was missing in education available in the area.

"I felt like really gifted young children were not challenged to the best of their ability," said Burley-Wolf.

She obtained a Masters Degree in gifted and talented education from Whitworth, and has been growing the Pioneer ever since.

"Our students have gone to Duke, Standford, [and] Princeton.”

Parent and volunteer Tabatha Reeves said Pioneer was a better option than the public school they tried. Her daughter reads at a level well-above her actual grade and excels in science.

"So we really wanted her to be challenged and she needed that, so we needed to provide that opportunity for her," said Reeves.

Reeves said she is happy with the decision to send her children to Pioneer.

But after 33 years, as Burley-Wolf considers retirement, she wanted to ensure the school thrives long after she is gone.  So Pioneer’s founder has been looking at transitioning Pioneer into a charter school.
   
"I've put my life into this place.  I don't want to see it fold like other private schools in town have,” she said.  “I'd like to see it continue and we saw this as probably our only option to keep the school going."

Pioneer’s students would no longer have to pay tuition, but Burley-Wolf said there would be drawbacks as well in taking on charter status.

Base funding from the state would be about $1,500 fewer per student than what Pioneer currently charges for tuition.   Burley-Wolf also said there were a lot more questions that would need to be answered before she would agree to charter status, even if approved, like whether each and every student enrolled now could continue at pioneer school.

The Washington Charter School Commission scheduled public forums across the State in January, including one in Spokane.
   
A decision on whether applicants who applied for charter status are approved was expected in February 2014.

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