Colorado’s Charter School Family Grows by Five
It is always a joy and privilege to welcome new charter schools into Colorado’s public school landscape. Going into the 2022-23 school year, we are thrilled to celebrate the opening of five new charter schools around the state. Please join us in welcoming Pleasant View Charter (Southwest Colorado), American Legacy Academy (Windsor), Sky Ranch Academy (Watkins), and two new Ascent Classical campuses (Grand Junction and Brighton).
Pleasant View Charter School (PVCS)
When the RE-1 district voted in summer of 2022 that they were closing Pleasant View School in southwest Colorado effective June 30, 2023, the local community was determined to keep a school functioning in this small farming and ranching community. Pleasant View Charter School (PVCS) was formed, “affording a high-quality school option not only for the children in Pleasant View, but also for students within the wider district who need a different approach to learning,” explains Tammy Hampton, Vice President of the PVCS School Board.
The local district was instrumental in helping this charter come to life, going so far as to donate the old building to the new charter, allowing the school to become operational in time for this school year. Hampton is hopeful they can utilize grants in the future to assist with the required upgrades and repairs. “The RE-1 administration, their school board and other local charter schools have been so amazing in helping us get started.”
This new charter will not only foster independent creative thinkers who practice collaborative problem solving through the exploration of their unique surroundings, but will save Pleasant View students from a lengthy bus route of over eleven miles to the nearest accessible RE-1 district elementary school. Featuring small classrooms with combined grades of K-1, 2-3 and 4-5, students will be able to learn at their own pace with an individualized lesson plan tailored to their needs. The idea, shares Hampton, is to “create an environment of total acceptance where each child values the strengths of their peers.”
PVCS is projecting forty students in year one with plans to implement sixth grade in the 2024-25 school year. The founders’ hope is that the small student population in this community-focused school will benefit a wide array of different learners. It will also provide a strong focus on environmental and agricultural sciences, supporting the next generation of farmers and ranchers who call this corner of Colorado home.
Says Hampton, “Agriculture runs for several generations in families. In an effort to prepare future generations to solve the big issues we are starting to see around food, energy and our environment, students will experience a project-based curriculum that will emerge into thousands of different fields of studies. Agriculture is not just farming. These kids will be doctors, veterinarians, environmental scientists, farmers, producers and engineers.”
“Pleasant Valley Charter School has been purposely designed through collaborative community partnership,” says Hampton. With the support of the local community, they will carry on the strong history of parental involvement, providing opportunities for community members to pass on knowledge to a new generation.
Sky Ranch Academy (Watkins)
Part of National Heritage Academies (NHA), Sky Ranch Academy in Watkins is welcoming students in grades K-7 for the 2023-24 school with plans to add one grade per year through grade 12. Featuring nine monthly character-building virtues, Sky Ranch Academy will join four NHA partner-schools already operating in Colorado where students are shown to outperform their traditional public school peers.
According to their website, these results and others are outlined in a new report by Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) in which NHA partner-school students gained 69 days of additional learning in math and 46 days in reading compared to their peers in traditional schools. Researchers also found NHA is a leading performer among charter school operators, ranking in the 82nd percentile or the top 20% of operators.
Principal Mary Romke, who has nearly three decades of educational experience, shares, “At Sky Ranch Academy, we focus on each child’s unique needs, abilities, and interests. We help each student to excel not only at the basics like reading and math but also offer a strong moral focus program. We want students to be college-ready and understand the importance of making good decisions and doing the right thing in life.”
In addition to a focus on academic and moral performance, Sky Ranch offers music, art and STEAM programming with plans to add clubs and sports in the future. They partner with Rocky Mountain Kids to provide on-site before and after school care for their families.
Romke shares, “We all have a passion to help students be the best they can be. It’s exciting to watch children as they thrive and transform into future leaders. I’m thrilled to be leading the Sky Ranch team for our inaugural school year.”
American Legacy Academy (Windsor)
Located in Windsor, American Legacy Academy is a Hillsdale College Member School, offering a classically-based, back-to-basics education with an emphasis in math, economics, science, and language skills and a firm grounding in civic responsibility and character development.
According to their website, their approach to education emphasizes the traditions of Western Civilization utilizing the study of history, literature, philosophy, and the fine arts. It features a rich and recurring examination of literary, moral, philosophical, political, and historic knowledge to equip students for college and/or careers. The curriculum is balanced and strong across the four core disciplines: math, science, literature and history with explicit instruction leading to reading fluency and language mastery.
The school will be led by Principal John Biner, past recipient of the Colorado Administrator of the Year award, who previously served as Principal of Fort Lupton High School. There, he moved the school from a "Turnaround" to an "Improvement" state performance rating, earning a "Bright Spot" award in education from Governor Polis in 2022. In a July 27, 2023 letter to parents, he states, “As the principal and staff of this Hillsdale classical curriculum and Core Knowledge K-8 school, we are committed to providing an exceptional educational experience that will lay a strong foundation for your child's academic and personal growth.”
Ascent Classical Academy of Grand Junction
One of two new Ascent Classical Academies schools to open in Colorado this school year, Ascent Grand Junction will welcome approximately 340 students across grades K-8. This new school choice option on the western hopes to add one grade each year until reaching K-12 matriculation. Carissa Drake, the school’s Headmaster, boasts fifteen years of experience in classical charter school education. She shares, “Grand Junction is a wonderful community that deserves high quality education options. Great education drives growth and community prosperity.”
According to its website, Ascent Classical Academies develop within its students the moral and intellectual skills, habits, and virtues upon which independent, responsible, and joyful lives are built, in the firm belief that such lives are the basis for a free and flourishing republic. As they ready their doors to open, Drake points to the dedicated faculty, staff, and parents who are committed to the growth and success of Ascent in Grand Junction.
“We are seeking to build a school that is academically rigorous, a community that is welcoming, and a place where students thrive within a structured environment. I cannot wait to see the vision become a reality in August and I am honored to be a part of it,” she states.
Ascent Classical Academy of 27J
The second Ascent location to open this year is located in Brighton and will welcome approximately 250 students in grades K-7, adding one grade each year until it too reaches full matriculation. The temporary campus is located at Northern Hills Church, while the school completes the process of purchasing land for building a permanent facility in the Todd Creek area.
Headmaster Dr. Tom Tacoma previously served as Headmaster at Ascent’s Northern Colorado campus before opening Ascent Classical of 27J. Hey says that what makes Ascent Classical special is that they provide an excellent education based on a tried-and-true model. Students learn to write in cursive, read classic works from Charlotte's Web to the epics of Homer and Virgil, and will do so while having serious discussions about virtue, ethics, and living well as citizens in the 21st century.
States Tacoma, “Our school fills a niche position in providing tuition-free classical education to students on the northeastern side of the Denver metro area. Our goal is to provide students with an outstanding academic education that also includes a specific focus in virtue development and good citizenship.”
Matthew Vlahovich, Colorado Superintendent of Ascent Classical Academies, shares that his team has been honored to work alongside the leaders and community members of Grand Junction and 27J to open these two new campuses. He states, “As a school of choice, we recognize the important decision a parent makes when choosing a school for their child and we highly value our role in that partnership. We are privileged to serve our families and encourage anyone interested in learning more about classical education to visit an Ascent Classical Academy campus for a tour.”