Polaris Charter School Effort Expected To Continue Despite Denial Of Initial Application By PED



Although obviously disappointed by a 7-3 vote of the Public Education Commission Thursday in Santa Fe not to approve an application for Polaris Charter School, Bill Hargraves, chair of the Polaris committee and a member of the Los Alamos Public Schools board, was optimistic for the future of the proposed school.

Polaris has the option to appeal the PEC decision to the Secretary of Education and Hargraves said Thursday afternoon that the committee will meet in the next week to discuss that option.

“I am very proud of everything the team accomplished. An incredible amount of work was done preparing the application. Personally speaking, I believe we should continue and apply again next year. The need for the charter school has not lessened and the project will take more time and perseverance which is a good lesson for our young people,” Hargraves told the Los Alamos Reporter.

The Polaris overall application received a score of 85.6 percent when reviewed by a peer review team from the Public Education Department Charter Schools Division comprised of a licensed administrator, a licensed teacher, a school business official and a team leader with administration reviewed the application. Despite the high score the peer review team recommended denial of the Polaris application. The team determined that the scoring did not meet the minimum expectations to enter into an implementation year. The team recommended that Polaris take the feedback provided during the application process and resubmit a stronger application in 2020.

Meanwhile, since the application was submitted to the PED in June, support for Polaris has grown even stronger with members of the community expressing the desire to become involved in the project. One of the main concerns of the PEC was that Polaris had not yet found a physical home and Hargraves is optimistic that changes in the status of certain properties in the area will open some doors.

Some of the items listed as concerns in the application need additional attention, Hargraves said, however, some facets of the application that the PED team claimed were not present in the application had indeed be included but perhaps should have been included in multiple sections. Hargraves said the Polaris committee has already identified ways to submit a more comprehensive application.

Despite the opposition of Los Alamos Public Schools to the application, it should be noted that it scored a 100 percent for evidence of support. LAPS Supt. Kurt Steinhaus extended an olive branch to the Polaris committee following a PEC hearing in Los Alamos in July where he both spoke in opposition of the proposed school and submitted written comments. LAPS did not collaborate with the Polaris committee during the two years when they were preparing the application but Steinhaus has now proposed working with the group. (See separate news release). LAPS also had the option to administer the proposed school instead of it going the state route.

Hargraves said he will continue to work with Polaris and will not seek reelection for his position on the school board when his term expires in December 31. He anticipated that the Polaris committee will take a short break to regroup and hopefully begin revising the application for resubmission to the PEC in January.