Idaho Mountain Town Builds Charter for Their Youngest Learners Article

Idaho Mountain Town Builds Charter for Their Youngest Learners

Years ago, while Connie Day was shopping for a cabin in the small community of Island Park, high in the mountains of Eastern Idaho, the last thing on her mind was starting a public charter school. It all began with her real estate agent. As they looked at properties, the agent mentioned the need for a local school. She explained that her daughter, who would be entering Kindergarten that year, would have to take the bus “down the hill” to Ashton, Idaho for school, almost 30 miles away. 

All of Island Park’s children had to make the long journey by bus to attend Ashton schools. This meant an early start, getting on the bus at 6:30 a.m. and another long commute home after the tiring school day, not arriving home in Island Park until 4:30 p.m. The trip was even longer and more treacherous during the winter. And if parents needed to pick up their children, if they got sick or had an appointment, well that was another trip down the mountain. 

”I hope that we can become an example of what education can be, that our unique model will continue, and that we won’t ever settle for “normal.” Just as Bluum helps me to believe in this vision, I hope that future school leaders will be encouraged to be innovative in their work.”

Connie Day

As Connie became more active in her new community, she kept hearing this same story over and over again. Finally, she decided something needed to be done for the students of Island Park, and she was the one who was going to do it.

In 2018 Connie began to gauge community interest in a local school, which was a daunting task. While there had been a few attempts at starting a school throughout the years, none had been successful. “It’s a lot of work to start a school, and parents usually give up trying as their children get older,” Connie explains. 

Community members from Island Park
Connie Day, Founder and Director
of Island Park Charter

“My main inspiration was the need in the community. Even though Island Park is a small community, the children here needed a school.”

Connie Day, Founder and Director of Island Park Charter School

Many in the community were doubtful that the town could maintain a successful school, but she was not deterred. “We pushed forward. At our first community meeting, there was a gentleman who was in the last graduating class of the Island Park school, which closed more than 50 years ago,” explained Connie.

Things at Island Park didn’t happen overnight, and it was difficult for Connie to navigate the process alone. While attending a “Charter Bootcamp”, she learned about a nonprofit organization called Bluum, which supports school leaders and communities throughout Idaho in growing high-performing and innovative school models. While completing her charter authorization, she reached out to Bluum for support in bringing her vision of a community-based school to fruition.

Island Park Charter School family at the school’s opening in 2019. Photo courtesy of Idaho EdNews

Now in operation for three years, Island Park is a thriving charter school that serves local K-3 students. Both kids and families have been thrilled to be part of this special school made uniquely for them…and to have precious hours back in their day. Unlike traditional schools, Island Park students learn together and their progress is based on their skill level rather than on their age. The curriculum is “content rich”, offering a strong foundation in science, social studies and literature, giving kids the fundamental skills needed for their future academic success. 

Under Connie’s excellent leadership and with local community support and dedicated partners like Bluum, she sees the growth of her independent school increasing every year. “When we started the school, I had an idea of what I wanted to do, but I wasn’t really sure how or if it would work. We are growing into that vision.” reflects Day. “Our enrollment is up for next year, and I am seeing the vision become a reality”
According to Day, the real test of her school’s success will be measured long-term by her impact as a mentor and a leader. She has set a high standard for the Island Park staff and students, and she pushes them daily to stretch themselves and go above and beyond what is required.

For more information on bringing talent to Idaho and cultivating great leaders so all Idaho students have access to a great education, visit Bluum today!

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