Aman STEAM Academy finds home for new charter in Aurora Public Schools

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AURORA | After a search process that spanned the course of about 18 months, one of Aurora’s newest charter schools has found a home.

Aman STEAM Academy, a charter school slated to open within Aurora Public Schools next school year, has secured a location in a new shopping center at 15540 Sixth Ave., according to Farrah Martin, founder and executive director of the school.

Currently little more than a 26,000-square-foot shell, Martin said that she will work with the building’s management firm, Vallejo Management, to finish the build-out process in the coming months. Upon completion, the school will house 18 classrooms, administrative offices, hives for partner organizations and a nursing facility staffed by personnel from nearby Children’s Hospital Colorado.

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Farrah Martin, founder of Aman STEAM Academy. (Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel)

“We’re turning a pretty small space into a very functional space,” Martin said.

She said that the entire construction process will run about $1.5 million, which will be fronted by an investment from Vallejo owner Rick Campbell. Aman will repay the initial loan through future lease payments, according to Martin. She said that early funding for the school has come largely from The Daniels Fund as well as from the state’s Charter School Startup Grant, and that Aman will be eligible to receive regular state funding in July.

Classes at the pre-kindergarten through second grade school are slated to begin Aug. 15, according to Martin, who said that the school will add one grade each year until the school services K-8 students in 2022.

Aman — which translates to “believe” in Hebrew — will operate on the STEAM education model, which combines STEM disciplines — science, technology, engineering and math — with art. The APS Board of Education approved the charter school to join the district in 2014.

Securing a building ended a real estate search that resulted in Martin seriously looking at eight different facilities across the city. The future school leader said that the prolonged process was the result of a squeezed market across not only Aurora, but the entire metro area.

“I would describe it as a whirlwind or maybe a roller coaster would be a better explanation,” Martin said. “There were great times where it felt like things were working out and then very low lows.”

Martin said she originally had her eye on a property in ZIP Code 80010, but after eight months of negotiations, the deal vaporized in a few days.

“There are just limited buildings — period,” she said.

Current vacancy rates in ZIP code 80010 are well below five-year averages, according to data provided by the Aurora Economic Development Council. Current vacancy rates for office, industrial and retail spaces in that area of the city clock in at 2.3 percent, 2.6 percent and 7 percent, respectively. The respective five-year averages are about 6 percent, 15 percent and 11 percent.

At one point, Martin was attempting to find a space she could share with Laurus Collegiate Charter School, another charter slated to open in APS at the start of the 2017-18 school year. But eventually, desires to open in disparate sections of the city proved the partnership to be futile.

“That just became difficult with them trying to serve one part of the community and we were trying to serve another part,” Martin said.

Sara Taylor, founder of Laurus, is still scouring properties in hopes of finding a suitable facility to house her school.

“We have not signed on the dotted line yet, but we do feel that we’re getting close to finding our forever home,” Taylor said.

Earlier this year, the APS board approved a one-year delay for Taylor to open Laurus in an effort to give the educator more time to find an adequate facility.