School board denies approval of STEM-based charter school

Board members encourage founders to bring philosophy to existing schools

Posted 6/15/18

About a dozen parents and children in matching black shirts with “Alexandria” written in yellow left a recent Douglas County School Board meeting in frustration. The STEM-inspired school they …

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School board denies approval of STEM-based charter school

Board members encourage founders to bring philosophy to existing schools

Posted

About a dozen parents and children in matching black shirts with “Alexandria” written in yellow left a recent Douglas County School Board meeting in frustration. The STEM-inspired school they were representing was denied a charter application for the second time by the board of education.

“It really brings a lot of technological innovation to students who are desperately needing it,” said parent Darick LaSelle, who serves on the board of directors for the proposed school, Alexandria School of Innovation. “I understand the board's concerns — I don't agree with them.”

The district's Charter Application Review Team made a recommendation to deny the application, which the school board followed. Board members cited inadequate programming to meet the needs of all students, including those with special needs, under enrollment across the district and an insufficient population as reasons.

“A grave concern in the district is enrollment,” school board President David Ray said at the June 5 meeting. “We really have to make sure we are making wise decisions when we grow schools in our district.”

The charter school would have been the second founded by Judy and Barry Brannberg, who in 2011 opened STEM School and Academy in Highlands Ranch. The sought-after location for the middle and high school of Alexandria School of Innovation was 14 acres of land near Lucent Boulevard and C-470 in Highlands Ranch. Primary grades would have been served at a different location.

If approved, the school would have eventually served 1,225 students in grades K-12.

In addition to emphasizing the four major components of a STEM school — science, technology, engineering and math — the Alexandria School would have included the arts and athletics. Plans called for a unique campus made up of research labs driven by business and industry professionals.

Board members liked the idea of a school collaborating with the business community.

“I just want to say how impressed I am with the support from the business community that you are able to muster. It is incredible,” board member Anne-Marie Lemieux said. “ I hope you can muster that support for existing schools.”

The former school board first denied the school's charter application in 2017. On May 29, Judy Brannberg submitted a revised application addressing six mandatory contingencies that weren't met in the original application.

“A charter school success depends on a diversity of support,” Brannberg said at the meeting. “ASI has parent commitment, support from community leaders, support from the business and industry community, and collaboration from higher-education leaders.”

Several parents took the stand during public comment, asking the board to approve the charter application and expressing their desire for an engineer-based option in the district.

John Smith's youngest son goes to Ben Franklin Academy, which serves grades kindergarten through eighth grade, with a focus on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM). Smith said he and other parents at Ben Franklin are exploring options for a charter high school.

“We feel that Alexandria will be the perfect fit for many of those families,” Smith said.

LaSelle said the school's board of directors will reconvene to determine if changes can be made for the board of education's approval.

“This is something that feeds very well into all disciplines,” he said of the school. “We are creatively finding ways to get kids engaged.”

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