The Natrona County School District's board of trustees formally began its review of the proposed Guild Charter School last week.

Proponents of the alternative school asked the trustees on Sept. 12 to carefully review the 1,100-page application, which is substantially the same as the one they unsuccessfully submitted last year.

The charter school plans to open in fall 2017. It will offer a classical education for students from kindergarten through the 12th grade who want individualized learning plans, challenging curriculum and other programs. So far, 176 students have registered for the school.

Its advocates credit the school district for offering many of the programs the Guild wants to offer, but the Guild want to put them under one roof.

School founder Tiffany Leary, who spoke first, took the trustees to task for their criticism that Guild parents didn't attend meetings. Many parents weren't at the meeting, but their opinions should not be dismissed, just like when a trustees is not physically present at a meeting, Leary said.

Several parents, community leaders and teachers urged the trustees to approve the application.

Amber Christianson recounted the difficulty she had teaching a class with 26 students. Research has proven smaller classes are better for learning, she said.

However, several people opposed the idea, saying the district cannot afford it during the economic downturn, and the district would not have the oversight of the Guild like it does with the other schools.

When questioned by the trustees, another Guild founder Wendy McGregor responded to other criticisms, saying the school is not proposing outsourcing special education services, nor will it take money away from the district.

"We have done everything we can to work with you," McGregor said.

Trustee Dave Applegate said the trustees are required by law to determine whether a charter school will succeed.

McGregor said the new application revised its financial details and changed the language about the governance.

Although she is a founder of the school, she isn't the primary leader, McGregor said. "The teachers will be the leaders."

But Applegate said governance doesn't work that way. Football teams have coaches, and somebody at the Guild Charter School will need to take responsibility.

He referred to comments that the new application is similar to the previously rejected one, and asked what is different that would change trustees' minds now.

McGregor responded the trustees did not completely evaluate the application last year, and urged them to do so before they make their decision at the next meeting on Sept. 26.