Colorado SKIES Academy celebrates opening of campus at Centennial Airport

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ENGLEWOOD | After 11 months of construction, the Colorado SKIES Academy opened its new building on the grounds of Centennial Airport Thursday with a ribbon cutting ceremony that was streamed live on Facebook.

The Academy, a project-based charter school with a focus on aerospace and aviation, launched in the fall of 2019 for sixth through eight grade students.

The campus is on the property of the Centennial Airport, adjacent to the Wings Over the Rockies Exploration of Flight exhibit. The school was developed by the people who designed the museum.

“When they opened up the campus that is here on the south side of Centennial Airport they always knew they wanted a school of some sort, and lo and behold here we are,” Colorado SKIES Academy director Suzanne Acheson told the Sentinel.

In its first year, students went to class in mobile trailers. Construction for the permanent campus began in November. The building cost $10 million and was financed with a bond, Acheson said.

The school switched to online-only after spring break because of the pandemic, a transition which went smoothly because of the academy’s small class sizes and the fact that every student already had a computer, Acheson said.

This fall, students started the school year online and on Monday will go back to school in-person in the new building. The building’s open-concept plans allow students to be spaced far enough apart to be following safety guidelines, Acheson said. This week was a phase-in week where each grade spent one day on campus to learn the new procedures.

“So far the students have been overly, overly helpful because they want to be back in person,” she said.

This school year 220 students are enrolled, with 12 more on a waitlist. About 50% are from the Cherry Creek School District, the rest are from across the metro area. At full capacity, the building can house 375 students.

The majority of students are male — last school year 65% of its students were boys, a percentage that rose to 74% this year. The Academy is working to build its partnerships with aviation programs that do outreach to elementary school students to encourage more girls to enroll, Acheson said. It also holds an aerospace showcase in the winter at Exploration of Flight to advertise to elementary students.

At the grand opening, masked board members and teachers, along with a handful of students, gathered at the building and lined up to cut a ceremonial ribbon.

“It’s way better than the pods,” said one of the students of the new campus.

Board member Christa Coryell thanked everyone who helped make the school a reality.

“This vision began years and years and years ago,” she said.