Charter school aims to reach rural Idaho students

New charter school aims to reach rural Idaho students

MIDDLETON — A new public charter school aimed at providing education to underserved rural Idaho counties is slated to open this fall.

Forge International is a K-5, year-round public charter school that will bring international baccalaureate education to students in Canyon, Gem and Payette counties. International baccalaureate education is an internationally recognized program designed to bring intercultural understanding and respect to students around the globe, according to the IB website.

“I’m excited to just bring high-quality learning in a fun atmosphere back to a small town,” said Micah Doramus, rural Canyon County native and head of Forge International. “I’m ready to go back our roots.”

The charter school will offer Spanish instruction beginning in kindergarten, as well as a combination of integrated arts, health and physical education classes. Next year, Doramus said Forge International plans to expand through 8th grade.

The 38,000-square-foot school, which broke ground last month, is intended to be a rural replica of Sage International School, a public K-12 charter school in Boise, said Doramus, who previously served as the principal of Sage International for three years.

Forge is scheduled to open in September and will serve about 200 students in its first phase. At full build-out in the next several years, the school will be 65,000 square feet and serve about 650 students in grades K-12.

Though the school is in Middleton at 1223 W. Main St. (Highway 44), Forge International’s boundaries also include portions of Caldwell, Greenleaf, Notus, Parma, New Plymouth, Emmett and Star. The school’s primary boundaries don’t prevent anyone from attending, Doramus said, but are used in the lottery process and could make it challenging for someone outside of those areas on the waitlist.

“We wanted to provide a school of choice where choice really wasn’t available,” Doramus said.

Forge International has been in the works for nearly five years. In July 2018, the Middleton Planning and Zoning Commission approved a conditional use permit for the school. In August, the Idaho Public Charter School Commission approved its state charter.

Charter schools, which are growing across the state, are publicly funded and free to any student, but enrollment is usually limited and awarded through a lottery.

To help fund the school, Forge International received a grant of up to $1.53 million, dependent on performance, from Bluum, a Boise-based nonprofit that supports the development and launch of new schools — mainly charter. Since 2014, the nonprofit has assisted in the startup of 15 schools.

“We’re excited because they’re taking a model that’s worked very well in Boise and they’re going to apply it to a population that where students qualify for free and reduced lunch,” said Terry Ryan, Bluum CEO. “It’s also a more rural population, that’s interesting and exciting to us ... more rural, more needy students — we think that’s great.”

Savannah Cardon is the Caldwell reporter for the Idaho Press. Follow her on Twitter, @savannahlcardon, or reach her at 208-465-8172.

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