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By Gary Fletcher

Observer Staff Writer

ENTERPRISE — An application to form a charter school was denied Monday night by the Enterprise School Board.

The board now has five business days to lay out the reasons behind its decision. Supporters of the Wallowa Mountain Charter School will have the right to appeal the decision to the state Department of Education.

"It's worth trying," proponent Mike Baird said of the charter school. "It's good for kids" — especially for students who don't do well in a regular classroom setting, Baird said at the initial March 14 two-hour hearing on the application.

The proposal was to open a two-teacher, grades 1-6 project-based charter school within the Enterprise School building.

Among the 32 people at Monday's fourth meeting on the topic, high school principal Brad Royse agreed with Baird that the concept of the proposed curriculum sounded innovative and exciting. However, Royse was concerned about the details of how the proposed theories would be put to work.

Grade school principal Dave Carlson expressed concerns in light of the school district's current budget crisis.

Doubts about the long-term financial sustainability of the charter school were expressed by board members during their brief discussion.

Proponents amended their application to delay starting the school until September 2003. Meanwhile, a $10,000 grant could be sought to send organizers to a national charter school convention. Baird said that another $50,000 of funding was available for the school. The original proposal was to use federal start-up money for the first two years.

The board also learned Monday:

• The school district's budgetary shortfall will increase by another $15,000 — the amount the state recently cut from the small high school needs grant earmarked for Enterprise, Superintendent Bill Eggars said.

• Mailings by a steering committee have been made to 1,200 voters, explaining the $2.4 million capital improvements bond for such district projects as reroofing and meeting ADA requirements for the high school, middle school and elementary school buildings. Voters have received ballots for the May 21 election.

•Ag/Shop and Home Economics, which were reduced to half time in next year's proposed budget, were selected by the board as the top priorities for which to ask the new Enterprise Education Foundation for $68,000 in funds.

If more money is found, resurrecting art and music programs would be the next priority. The foundation's next public meeting is 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the high school library.

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