Vocational, gifted charter schools proposed for D-11

October 28, 2009

Two new charter schools — a vocational high school and a K-8 for gifted learners — are being proposed to open next fall in Colorado Springs School District 11.

D-11 is evaluating the proposals, which are scheduled to be discussed by the Board of Education at a November work session and voted on in December. Both come from groups of educators, parents and community members who say they are trying to fill an educational need in the Pikes Peak region.

The Colorado Springs Vocational Academy would serve up to 360 students in ninth to 11th grades the first year, and would add 12th grade the second year, according to its application. It is targeting students at risk of dropping out of school because they don’t do well in the traditional college-prep academic courses offered by most high schools.

“Our students would have the academics to go on to college if they want, but they would be able to get a job when they graduate from high school,” said Maureen Adams, president of the founding board.

The year-round school would offer training in building trades (such as plumbing, roofing and welding), auto mechanics, family and consumer studies (including culinary arts) and business/marketing. Academic subjects would be tied the vocational curriculum. Upper class students would be involved in internships or other community-based projects related to their field.

The school is awaiting approval before settling on a location, but wants it to be centrally located with easy access because it expects to draw students from throughout the region, said Deb Chamberlain, a steering committee member. It is considering the former TRW building on North Nevada Avenue because it is well set up for the school’s program, she said.

The school has “intent to enroll” letters from about 100 students, according to the application.

The second application is for the Academy for Advanced & Creative Learning, which would be similar to the private Renaissance Academy that shut down in September 2008. Organizers are planning two community meetings: 7-8 p.m. Thursday at the Monument Library, weather permitting (check the group's Web site to see if it's a go), and 7-8 p.m. Nov. 5 at the Old Colorado City Library.

The school would emphasize individualized instruction for gifted children who don’t do well in traditional school environments, said Nikki Myers, a member of the steering committee. She emphasized the school is using the broad definition of gifted children, not just those who pass special tests.

“There are six to seven types of gifted kids,” she said, including those who hide their abilities in elementary school because they feel out of place with other students.

“The perception often is that we’re trying to take the cream of the crop and we’re not,” Myers said. “We want to cater to kids who need specially trained teachers so they can thrive.”

The school will have multi-age divisions rather than grades, and students will work at their own pace, she said. It plans to enroll between 116 and 170 students the first year. It would offer counseling for students preparing to move on to high school to ensure they find a program that’s a good fit for their needs, she said.

The Academy for Advanced & Creative Learning is seeking a central location along the Interstate 25 corridor because it expects to draw students from throughout the region, she said.

Call the writer at 636-0251.



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