Island Park Charter School is on track to open as the city’s first school in the fall.
The one-room school will be located in one of the stand-alone motels that belong to Mack’s Inn and will teach kindergarten through third grade.
The charter school was founded by Connie Day, a teacher at White Pine Charter School in Ammon who spent a lot of time in Island Park during the summer. As she got to know the community better, she heard about the difficulties parents faced with the distance from the rest of Fremont County School District.
“Most of the kids go down to Ashton and that requires some of them to get on the bus at 6:30 in the morning. That’s a long day, especially for the kindergarteners,” Day said.
Day left her teaching job earlier this spring to open the school in Island Park. The school district approved the plans for the school earlier this year, with Day serving as the executive director and full-time teacher.
Island Park will be operating without much of a budget this year. The school was authorized by the state in May, months after the deadline to receive state funds for the 2019 school year. Day and her aide will be volunteering without a salary during this first year and looking for donations from the community to help.
Help started coming in for the school before it opened. Chad Bauer, who owns the Mack’s Inn property and recently sold off the remainder of the motel, donated the building for the charter school to use rent-free for its first year. The Fremont County Planning and Building Department approved the conditional use permit for the school on Monday.
The response from families in the city has also been quick and supportive. Day said she’d only planned to have 10 students this year but thinks the number could end up closer to 16. The building only has one classroom for the four grades to share, so some lessons on reading and Yellowstone ecology will be taught as a group and other topics will split the kids up in different ways.
“We’ll be grouping the children based on what they already know and what their next learning steps are, not based as much on their grade,” Day said.
By the time Island Park begins receiving state funds in 2020, the school may look entirely different than it does now. Day’s plans for the building include a complete renovation of the interior and a fenced playground for the children to use. If every student in the K-3 age range who live in that area of Island Park ended up attending, the school’s population could increase to 30 students and the school would try to add another teacher or aide.
Registration at Island Park for the 2019-2020 school year will be open until July 29. Interested families can email the school at firstname.lastname@example.org.