COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Most students wouldn't like going to school on a Saturday, but those at Thomas MacLaren School had a good reason for doing so this weekend.
The school earned the distinction as the only school in the county to help celebrate National School Choice Week. A rally at the school was broadcast via satellite to Houston, Texas -- the location of the national rally for the annual event.
The week is meant to raise awareness about the variety of educational options available for families -- including public, private, parochial, magnet, online and home schools.
Three parents from School District 11 in Colorado Springs, including MacLaren's principal, Mary Faith Hall, started the charter school in 2009. It has since grown to an enrollment of 240 serving grades 6-12.
Hall said MacLaren is a classical liberal arts school where all students take the same courses and there are no electives.
"We're able to really focus and bring about a lot of mastery at a very high level for all of our students," she said.
Hall said MacLaren is just one of many area schools offering a range of opportunities which she said are examples of how seriously school choice is viewed.
"Having so many different models allows us the freedom to be as good as we can be, and not have to be a one-stop shop for every kind of school there could be," she said.
Derek and Bridget Mosley said they had long sought the right school for their daughters Moriah, a high school junior, and Joanna, a sixth-grader.
"MacLaren doesn't have things that can be distractions from the main core of education," Derek Mosley said.
Bridget Mosley said she has taught in a variety of schools and was impressed by the teacher-student relationship at MacLaren.
"It was just a very different culture here and we were sold," she said.
The Mosley daughters appear equally impressed.
"I was learning almost nothing (at my) previous school," Moriah Mosley said. "My mom actually pulled me out halfway through and home-schooled me. At this school, I learned things the (first) day."
Moriah Mosley is in her fourth year at MacLaren but this is the first year for her younger sister.
"It's not really what I expected," Joanna Mosley said. "I thought maybe it was going to be a little easier. They give you more homework. I actually kind of like that."
MacLaren is rated the state's tenth-best high school by ColoradoSchoolGrades.com. Two other Colorado Springs schools, Air Academy and Vanguard, also made theweb site's top 10 list.
Nora Flood, president of the Colorado League of Charter Schools, advises families to learn all they can about a school and visit it before choosing one for their kids.
"One of the families (at MacLaren) has children in two or three different schools because they learn differently," she said. "Charter schools aren't the only option, but they need to be a better option."