Sat, Feb

Rainbow Acres plans to open charter school

Camp Verde News

Rainbow Acres, the Camp Verde-based Christian-oriented home for around 90 developmentally disabled adults, is moving forward with plans to open a charter school for children with the same kinds of issues.

The plan was met with approval last week from the Camp Verde Town Council, along with a few other requests from the center.

Rainbow Acres first opened its doors in Camp Verde in the 1970s. Its residents are more commonly called “ranchers.”

The proposed charter school would take students from across the Verde Valley, said Steve Ricci, Rainbow Acres’ director of buildings and grounds.

“We want the Rainbow Acres charter school to be an alternative school for the youth of the Verde Valley with developmental disabilities,” Ricci said. The school would provide a setting to help these students explore vocational opportunities, Ricci said, to help the children live to their fullest potential with dignity and purpose.

Ricci said that the school would have a target enrollment of 30 to 60 students ages 14 to 22, serving grades nine through 12.

Rainbow Acres currently is host to a learning center and helps the ranchers find job opportunities.

The charter school would be more than that, Ricci said. While the school may draw enrollment away from some other schools in the area, Ricci said it was something that was needed.

“The idea here is more to providing a place for individuals in the Verde Valley who tend to drop out [of school],” Ricci said. “The idea here is to provide them with an environment where they can continue to learn.”
Ricci said that budget concerns have forced many schools to strip their special education programs.

“Many of these students just get lost,” Ricci said.

There was some question from the town’s leaders as to whether Rainbow Acres would provide busing services for the students of the school.

A committee is currently working on this and all the other details of the school’s operation, Ricci said. The school’s application could be submitted to the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools by the summer of 2011; classes could begin by August 2012.

The council also gave its approval to a permanent extension to allow Rainbow Acres to continue to use a modular home building as a health clinic.

The structure was manufactured in 1986 and was originally used by Rainbow Acres as a thrift store, said Jenna Paulsen, an assistant planner with Camp Verde.

The building doesn’t meet the technical requirements for such a purpose, considered a commercial operation under the letter of the town’s codes.

The council originally directed Rainbow Acres to use the structure until 2007 but then gave the operators a three-year extension.

That ended this year, Paulsen said, but the council agreed last week to make the extension permanent.

Rainbow Acres would need to get special permits if the clinic ever underwent expansion, but Ricci said that they would get rid of the building if it became unusable or unsafe for the ranchers.

Rainbow Acres was also granted approval for the construction of a multipurpose barn, 42 feet by 80 feet in design.

The organization would also run a new equestrian center, where Ricci said ranchers would learn everything there was to know about horses, from anatomy and physiology to tack and everyday care.