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Commission approves charter school permits pending more info

Discussions continued Tuesday night on two conditional use permits (CUP) for the Blackfoot Charter Community Learning Center (BCCLC).

The city of Blackfoot Planning and Zoning Commission voted to approve CUPs for the BCCLC middle school in Riverside Plaza and elementary school on Hunter’s Loop pending a review of the schools transitional plan before the next meeting, July 23. Commissioners originally tabled the decision on the middle school, but reversed its decision later in the meeting. Three of the seven commissioners recused themselves from the discussions due to conflicts. The school said it is working on a new location, but did not want to disclose it because it is not official yet. Debbie Steele, BCCLC chief administrator, gave her word to the commission that the transitional plans would be complete for the next meeting.

At the meeting, Commissioner Ronald Ramirez said they are “doing their best to keep it open, but some things we can’t ignore. We realize its value. All we’re asking is for you to work with us.”

The city told BCCLC and the Bingham Academy (which teaches grades 9-12) it needed to update their CUPs. It granted the schools CUPs for 10 months last summer while it figured out transitional plans for a new school. The CUP renewal application was supposed to be reviewed at a May planning and zoning meeting; however, a large amount of people showed up and the meeting was canceled and moved to Tuesday night. The meeting was also moved to the Nuart Theater to accommodate the large crowd. Law enforcement was also asked to be present.

Many parents and faculty showed up and spoke in support of the schools. They were afraid the CUPs would not be approved, which would possibly shut down the schools. They were also concerned the commission’s original delayed decision would mean the staff and students would not have much time to find new schools or jobs before the new school year in August.

At the meeting, Nathan Olsen, an attorney for BCCLC, told the commission any offerings made by either school was being made under protest. He also said the commission does not have unlimited authority on the matter. Olsen also said there are several violations made by the commission. For example, Olsen said Bingham Academy, which has been at its location at the Riverside Plaza in Blackfoot since 2014, was not required or asked to have a CUP. Bingham Academy has not submitted a CUP application. It was not on the agenda at Tuesday’s meeting.

The commission will make a decision on its recommendation at the July meeting, which will go to City Council for final approval.

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