Co-op offers alternative to Evans Valley students

When parents in Evans Valley learned this year that beginning a charter school wasn't feasible, they banded together and created the Evans Valley Educational Cooperative.

The cooperative is not a school, but rather a group of homeschooled students who meet together in Wimer to work on assignments.

The co-op includes about 30 students in grades K-12 enrolled at Logos Public Charter School in Medford and Rivers Edge Academy Charter School in Rogue River.

"What we've done is we've taken the charter-school programs and taken it one step further," said director of the co-op, Julie Niles-Fry. "We can create more of a dynamic atmosphere by bringing students together to study."

Niles-Fry said Evans Valley parents had hopes of creating a charter school a year ago but learned in January that their application had been denied at the state level.

The application needed revisions and clarifications in a number of areas, scoring 63 of 120 possible points on the state's grading scale, according to Christine Miles, communications director for the Oregon Department of Education.

The parents intended to revise their application and try again this year, but in the meantime they organized the educational co-op as a backup plan, anticipating the June closure of Evans Valley Elementary.

When organizers learned Oregon wasn't dispersing charter-school funds this year, they went forward with the co-op, meeting for study groups in a room of the Evans Valley Bible Church in Wimer.

The group has hired a tutor and relies on volunteers and donations from parents and the community, according to Niles-Fry.

Because the students are enrolled through a charter school, they must meet all of the same requirements of other charter students there, including weekly meetings with teachers, according to Logos Principal Joe VonDoloski.

VonDoloski said teachers at Logos already travel to students' homes to meet with them regularly, including a few teachers who go to Wimer.

"It is a little bit unique what they are doing, but as long as they meet all the requirements, it's fine," said VonDoloski. "Any time parents get together for the benefit of their kids, it's a positive thing."

Niles-Fry said the co-op is "doing great" so far and has a waiting list of students who may want to join the program later when it has an official school space.

"We need to have a facility before we can add any more students," said Niles-Fry.

The co-op hopes to lease the empty Evans Valley Elementary annex and school grounds, at 8205 E. Evans Creek Road in Wimer, and is actively working on lease agreements with the Rogue River School District for use of the building.

Niles-Fry said she wants the community to "reclaim the building" in an effort similar to the Selma Education and Community Center.

The District's Board of Directors is considering the lease agreement but wants the co-op to have $5 million in liability insurance to protect the school, according to Rogue River School District Superintendent Paul Jones.

Jones said the board is working with co-op organizers, who are asking for a lower amount.

Niles-Fry said the board was poorly advised by an insurance company and that $5 million in liability insurance is too high. She said the Evans Valley PTA already holds insurance in excess of $1 million that could cover their use of the school for the co-op.

"We're at a stalemate," Niles-Fry added.

Jones said the board faces no time constraints or legal obligation to grant the lease.

"The board doesn't have to come to an agreement," Jones said. "There is no tentative timeline."

Jones said district officials were working Monday to schedule a time to discuss the lease.

Reach reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or

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