Thursday, May 24, 2018
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Sponsor sought for charter school

Oregon therapy farm operator proposes branching out


Earnie Dickens of Oregon rides with his daughter Alyssa Dickens, 11, and Jordyn Pedigo at Vail Meadows. The owner of the 25-acre farm says that riding helps children strengthen their muscles, and spending time with animals elevates their mood.

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Something about the animals makes children feel comfortable, said Joy Vail, director of an Oregon therapeutic animal farm.

For some, horse riding strengthens their legs and their walking improves; for others, spending time with creatures that give unconditional love elevates their mood, said Ms. Vail.

Now, Ms. Vail said, she is looking to expand Vail Meadows -- a 25-acre farm with 35 horses in Oregon -- and launch a charter school for students in grades 7 to 12 "who tend to be followers and are looking to be productive but they don't have the tools to do it themselves."

At the school, the 25 to 50 students would study traditional core subjects and also learn how to ride horses, garden, and work on small farm machines.

The school would be open to students regardless of where they lived. State funding that went to their home districts would follow them to the charter school.

But state law requires that for the proposed charter school to become a reality, Ms. Vail must find a sponsor.

During a special school board meeting last week, Oregon officials tabled a proposal on sponsoring the new charter school. The school board has not scheduled another meeting before Thursday, which is the state's deadline to secure a sponsor in time to open for the 2012-2013 school year.

Diana Gadus, Oregon school board president, said officials had too many questions, such as whether the district would be responsible for the charter school's services or would count the charter students in its enrollment numbers.

"Looking at the overall picture, at this point in time, it didn't appear to be the direction to move in," she said.

Superintendent Mike Zalar said that as a sponsor, Oregon schools would have provided some administrative and financial oversight to the proposed charter school but not any funding, teachers, or building space.

Ms. Vail said she believes she will either find a last-minute sponsoring agency from the Columbus area or else form a charter school for the 2013-2014 school year.

She said she approached Oregon public schools first because they are the neighboring district. "We don't want to do this in opposition or compete with Oregon schools," Ms. Vail said.

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