STEM, arts to combine at planned charter school

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Aurora’s educational landscape is set to become more crowded next fall with the addition of a new charter school expected to open in northwest Aurora.

AS.FarrahMartin9578.121015The Aurora Public Schools Board of Education approved Aman STEAM Academy to become a part of the district in 2014, and the school is beginning to ramp up recruitment efforts for its first class of students. Classes at the pre-kindergarten through second grade school are slated to begin in mid-August of next year, according to Farrah Martin, founder and executive director of the school.

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. Martin said that the STEAM approach allows for instructors to actively combine in-classroom knowledge with real-world experiences.

“STEAM is all about integrating subjects so that kids can clearly connect what they’re learning in school to what they’re learning outside of school, to the future and to jobs,” Martin said.

Aman students will partner and work closely with several entities in the nearby Aurora Cultural Arts District, the local chapter of the NAACP and the marketing and education departments at the Community College of Aurora, according to APS documents.

Early funding for Aman has come largely from The Daniels Fund as well as from the state’s Charter School Startup Grant, according to Martin. She said that Aman is eligible to receive regular state funding in July.

Originally from Vicksburg, Miss., Martin came to Colorado by way of New Orleans, where she was a middle school science teacher. She said that after watching the charter school movement take off in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, she decided to continue to pursue education and permanently forgo previous plans to attend medical school.

“With charters, it’s about the ability to be creative with your program and curriculum and to provide families with that other choice,” Martin said. “One of the awesome things about charters is that we have that autonomy.”

Since leaving Louisiana, Martin has served as a policy fellow for state Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, director of education policy and practice at the Colorado League of Charter Schools and, most recently, the assistant principal at the Omar D. Blair Charter School in Green Valley Ranch.

In Aurora, Martin said that for Aman’s annual class she plans on enrolling around 300 students largely from ZIP Codes 80010, where the school is expected to reside, 80012, 80014 and 80017. She said that she’s already received interest from between 110 and 120 families.

But finding an adequate facility has proved challenging for Martin, who said that finding a desirable space is a lingering hurdle for many charter schools.

“The nemesis to charters is always finding the building,” Martin said. “We were fortunate in getting some time from the district to find a building and get our facilities ready.”

Martin said that she is in the middle of final negotiations on a space in northwest Aurora, but cannot disclose the exact location until the final papers are signed, which she said she expects to happen by the second week of January. She added that the building Aman is aiming to secure has the capacity to annually add grade levels and grow to a K-8 school by 2022.

That difficulty Martin and other Aurora charter school founders have had with finding appropriate spaces recently caused APS to tweak its charter application process. Now, the school district reviews new charter school applications in the spring, whereas previously the process had taken place throughout the fall. The switch was made in an effort in order to give approved applicants — who are expected to begin holding classes in the fall the calendar year after their application is reviewed — more than a year to secure a location for their school.

“In Aurora, our challenge is that we don’t have building space,” said APS spokeswoman Georgia Duran. “We’re over-enrolled in our schools and the city doesn’t have vacant buildings out and about. So this gives the schools plenty of time to find a building, and more time to negotiate.”

Aman will join six other active charter schools in APS. Another K-8 charter new to APS, Laurus Collegiate Charter School, was approved by the Board of Education this year and is expected to begin classes next fall.

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Latiesha Olive
Latiesha Olive
6 years ago

Congratulations Farrah!! So proud of you!!

Farrah
Farrah
6 years ago
Reply to  Latiesha Olive

Thank you, Latiesha!!!

Latiesha Olive
Latiesha Olive
6 years ago
Reply to  Farrah

You are welcomed! This is amazing to see!! Excited for the manifestation to come forth!!

Casey Carmichael
Casey Carmichael
6 years ago

GREAT article! well deserved recognition for Farrah!