Parker council OK's charter school site

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A handful of roadblocks hasn’t slowed progress on American Academy’s expansion into Parker.

After a three-week delay on a decision, Parker Town Council on Jan. 28 approved an amendment that will allow the construction of a K-8 school on property previously slated for an assisted-living facility known as the Mountain View Senior Center.

With an ever-growing wait list, the public charter school announced in October that it had found the ideal site for a second Douglas County campus. School leaders celebrated the fact that the land was right next to Clarke Farms, a residential neighborhood filled with young families.

Some homeowners, however, were not pleased with the plans to build American Academy on the west side of Motsenbocker Road, a mile south of Mainstreet. Twelve of them spoke out during a Parker Town Council meeting Jan. 7 in which the school’s officials asked town leaders to approve the zoning amendment.

The opponents are worried about an increase in traffic on Mainstreet and Motsenbocker, and raised concerns about a Developmental Pathways center adjacent to the school site that houses three convicted sex offenders who are developmentally disabled.

Mike Caplan, a representative for Developmental Pathways, acknowledged the situation during the Jan. 28 meeting and said one of the sex offenders has a “predilection for pedophilia.” He said the issue has not yet been resolved, and urged council to delay its decision. Caplan said officials at Developmental Pathways agree that it would be best to relocate the sex offenders, but a plan of action has not been finalized.

Erin Kane, the head of school and a founding member of the executive team that launched the original charter in Castle Pines, said the school is engaged in good-faith negotiations with Developmental Pathways and an appraisal on its property is under way.

The process to approve the amendment, as well as a replat that turned four separate lots into one, was further complicated when Town Councilmember John Diak disclosed that he has three children who have been accepted into American Academy. Councilmember Joshua Rivero also revealed that his family is on the charter’s waiting list. However, both men said they did not believe that their ties to the school would affect their decision.

Several opponents of the project, and Councilmember Debbie Lewis, said they believed Diak and Rivero’s connection to American Academy could pose a conflict of interest. Both men recused themselves from the vote.

No residents spoke against the project Jan. 28, and one woman, Kate Weathers, supported the school during the public comment portion of the meeting. She said she has felt strongly that the school is needed in the area and believes it will eventually be viewed as “one of best things that’s ever happened to Parker.”

Before voting in favor of the requests, Lewis said she is more confident that traffic congestion will be lessened now that changes, including the expansion of Motsenbocker Road, have been made to the plan. Lewis lives blocks from the proposed school site.

At buildout, the Parker school will house about 900 students; American Academy has a waiting list of about 2,500, with as many as 600 of them from Parker. Officials hope to open the school by this fall.

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