FAQ - Lower School (K-5)

What is a charter school?
Charter schools are publicly funded elementary or secondary schools in the United States that have been freed from some of the rules, regulations, and statutes that apply to other public schools. This is usually in exchange for some type of accountability for producing certain results, which are set forth in each school's charter. Their founders are often teachers, parents, or activists who want to bring an innovative approach to the local public school community. 

Does MacLaren charge tuition?
No, it does not. MacLaren is a public school and, like all public schools, does not charge tuition. However, also like other public schools, there may be fees charged to cover certain costs. There are payment plans available for these fees as well as income-based reductions.

Is MacLaren a District 11 school?
No, it is not. Thomas MacLaren School, while located within the boundaries of District 11, is actually chartered through Colorado's state authorizer, the Charter School Institute.

How is MacLaren governed?
MacLaren is governed by its own Board of Directors. There are currently seven people serving on the Board. As a public institution, MacLaren’s Board meetings are open to the public.

Where is MacLaren located?
MacLaren is located at 1702 N. Murray Blvd., Colorado Springs, CO 80915.

What grades does MacLaren serve?
MacLaren has served 6th through 12th grades for nine years and will open K-5th grades for the first time in the 2018-19 school year.

Is there an entrance exam?

No, there is no entrance exam. As a public school, we offer this curriculum to all who apply. That said, MacLaren may not be the right fit for every child. We are a school of choice and we offer a specific educational environment which may work very well for some children and not as well for others. All families who choose MacLaren are welcome. Each spring, MacLaren holds diagnostic exams for students transferring into grades 7 and higher to ensure proper placement within our program.

What are the school hours?
School is held Monday through Friday. The 6th-12th grades will start promptly at 7:45 a.m. and end at 3:30 p.m (2:40 p.m. on Fridays). The K-5th grade schedule is still to be determined.

Does MacLaren offer bus service?

Unfortunately, we are unable to afford bus service at this time. We hope to be able to offer bus service in future years.

What is distinctive about a MacLaren education?
All MacLaren students, grades K-12, receive an excellent liberal-arts education in which the humanities, the fine arts, mathematics, and the sciences are valued and given equal weight. And all MacLaren students study a common, sequenced, content-rich curriculum, with no tracking. Grades are de-emphasized in favor of meaningful, personal feedback and evaluation. In this environment, students begin to pursue learning for its own sake and become the agents of their own education. 

What is distinctive about a MacLaren K-5 education?

Lower School students will follow a course of study based on the Core Knowledge Sequence. They will be immersed in dual cultures of reading and mathematics, and will have daily music class based on the Kodály concept, as well as daily physical education. Every day ends with a period called Leisure, during which students will pursue quiet hands-on activities while listening to music and stories.

What is Core Knowledge?
The Core Knowledge Sequence is a specific core of shared knowledge that we believe all children should learn in U.S. schools. Elegantly sequenced, commonsensical, rigorous, and intrinsically interesting, Core Knowledge is proven to help close the achievement gap and help children establish a strong foundation of knowledge. It is also the best way to prepare students for our high-achieving 6-12 program. 

What is the Kodály method?
The Hungarian researcher, composer, and music teacher Zoltán Kodály taught that music was meant to be enjoyed, that all people had the right to music literacy, that the human voice is the instrument most natural to us all, and that folk music is the musical mother tongue of the child. This concept has become a well-regarded music pedagogy that helps young people fall in love with singing and paves the way for them to become skilled musicians. In 2016 the concept was placed on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

Will Lower School students play instruments the way Upper School students do?
Like their Upper School counterparts, Lower School students will have music class every day, but their music class will be vocal rather than instrumental—they will sing and move! That said, there will certainly be times when their music class incorporates instruments. 

Does MacLaren’s Lower School offer single-sex classes?
Not presently. We are open to the possibility of single-sex classes in 4th and 5th grade, but a final decision is dependent on enrollment. 

Will Lower School students wear uniforms?
Yes. Lower School uniforms will be similar to Upper School uniforms but visually distinct.

Will there be homework?

Yes. As in the Upper School, students have daily targets of homework time. In the Lower School, these targets are as follows: 15 minutes in kindergarten, 30 minutes in grades 1-3, and 60 minutes in grades 4-5. In addition, all students are expected to free-read or be read to at least 20 minutes every night. 

What specials do you offer?
We are trying to move our elementary program away from a culture of specials to a culture in which all subjects, whether offered daily or not, are considered part of the core curriculum. This means that students will have music and P.E. daily. Art will be offered on a rotating basis, but will be a complete Studio Art course based on the Core Knowledge Sequence. 

What are your class sizes?
Class sizes are 24 in Kindergarten and 27 in grades 1-5. Every class has a teacher and a teacher’s assistant. 

What kind of teachers will you hire?
We will hire a Lower School faculty of dynamic and engaging teachers who are themselves lifelong learners, teachers with a heart for young students and a gift of empathy. All faculty will be Qualified under the Every Student Succeeds Act. 

Do you teach cursive?
Yes. Students will learn both manuscript and cursive handwriting. 

What is your approach to technology?
We believe that technology can be a useful tool, but for students at this age the need for it is minimal. Although students will need to take certain standardized assessments in the computer lab, we seek as much as possible to give students an unmediated experience of learning and the world. They will write by hand, read print books, and play outside in the fresh air. 

Will you have a playground?

Yes. We have budgeted significantly for an inviting playground that will encourage students to run, climb, dig, hide, jump, and swing. 

How does MacLaren’s Lower School address discipline issues?
All MacLaren staff and students are all expected to contribute to a safe, orderly, and respectful environment. We have clear rules, influenced by Love and Logic, for the students to follow, and they are enforced consistently, fairly, and seriously. We also understand that young children thrive in an atmosphere of care and kindness, and we seek to help students learn to solve problems before they start, to advocate for themselves, and to grow in confidence and trust

How does the enrollment process work?
The first step is to attend an Information Night. Then you will need to submit a Letter of Intent using our online submission form. We will hold a lottery on January 31, 2018 for any grade that is oversubscribed. Please read our K-5 Enrollment Policy for further details regarding the lottery. After the lottery is held, enrollment will be on a first-come-first-served basis to fill the remaining seats available in the class.

Do I have to re-enter the lottery each year if I am already enrolled?
No. Once your child is enrolled, he or she will always have a spot in MacLaren.

How will the younger siblings of enrolled students find a space in the school?
The lottery is weighted for sibling preference, i.e. siblings of already-enrolled students are automatically ranked higher in the lottery than their peers. That almost always results in a sibling either getting a spot outright or ending up very high on the wait list.




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