New entrepreneurial-focused magnet school in APS readying for students this fall


AURORA | Colorado’s youngest entrepreneurs got a sneak peek of their future school this Saturday as the Clara Brown Entrepreneurial Academy hosted a meet and greet for students who were accepted to the new magnet school’s inaugural class and their families.

The Clara Brown Entrepreneurial Academy (CBEA) will open this fall as one of APS’ two new magnet schools being built as part of the Blueprint APS process. The other, the Charles Burrell Visual and Performing Arts Campus, will provide education in the arts to students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

The school’s namesake, Clara Brown, is believed to be one of the first Black people to settle in Colorado. ​​Born into slavery in Virginia in 1800, Brown became a prominent entrepreneur and philanthropist in Colorado during the Gold Rush and helped newly freed slaves relocate to Colorado until her death in 1885. She was posthumously inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame, which was present at the meet and greet to educate families about Brown’s legacy.

Eventually, the district plans to open a new magnet school focused on a different career track in each of the district’s seven geographic regions, though plans for the continuation of Blueprint are currently up in the air after the board rejected the superintendent’s recommendation for the next step of the plan at its March meeting.

The CBEA will open on the site of Wheeling Elementary, and will eventually serve students in kindergarten through 8th grade. It will open in the fall for students in kindergarten through third grade, and will add an additional grade each year.

So far, 200 students have been accepted to the school, principal Laura Burke said. There will be 50 students per grade level with two classrooms of 25 students per grade. Applications are open for the school’s waitlist, and Burke encouraged families who are still interested to apply because some family’s plans may change between now and the fall. Students were selected through a lottery with no additional requirements.

“It was important we weren’t creating barriers to attend,” Burke said.

At the meet and greet, families got to speak with some of the local and national partners the school will be working with, learn about the curriculum and meet with teachers, fill out paperwork and play games. Burke said she was encouraged by how many families attended the event.

The school will use the same curriculum as the rest of the district to ensure that it is meeting the required standards, but will use a project-based learning approach that sets it apart, instructional coach Lori Large told The Sentinel

Students will have entrepreneur-focused lessons about how to come up with ideas for products, conduct market research, create a business model and promote their ideas to other people, Large said. Whether or not they choose to focus on business when they’re older, the skills are designed to help them as they pursue a career or higher education.

“Parents are really excited about the idea of their kids getting to do something different,” Large said.

The school will also build social-emotional learning concepts into the school day, which Large said will help give students the tools they need to manage their own emotions and naturally complement their entrepreneurial skills—it’s hard to run a business without the ability to solve conflict or work with a team.

Throughout the school year, community organizations such as the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and The District Credit Union will come into the school to teach lessons.

The nonprofit Magnet Schools of America consulted on Clara Brown’s design, and the academy is the first magnet school in Colorado to partner with the nonprofit. The nonprofit will provide support to the school and help keep it in line with best practices for magnet schools across the country.

Heidi Targee, who provided consulting, said that more and more schools nationwide are interested in entrepreneurship but Clara Brown is one of the few that has built an entire curriculum around it. She recently visited an entrepreneurship-focused elementary school in Nashville and said she was impressed with what she saw.

“The students own the learning in a way that’s internalized differently,” she said.

A more rigorous educational experience is what parents said drew them to Clara Brown. 

Zoe Roberts, who operates a salon and has a son who will be entering third grade at Clara Brown, said she liked the focus of the school since she’s a business owner herself. She hopes her son will get more personalized attention at Clara Brown and will benefit from the project-based learning model.

Kijana and Patrick Bailey were at the meet and greet with their son Donovan, who will be entering second grade at Clara Brown. The couple hopes Donovan will get more opportunities to pursue STEM subjects at Clara Brown then are available at his current school.

“We call him our little engineer,” Kijana Bailey said. The family also hopes he will be challenged more.

“We’re looking for a little more intense learning, not just accepting the baseline,” Patrick Bailey said.

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6 months ago

In the face of the looming fiscal cliff spoken of in other APS articles, is this the school that will be home to the $60K Australian hologram generator system, possibly the first school in the USA to order this system? Looking forward to seeing how it is integrated into the curriculum.

Rick Salmans
Rick Salmans
6 months ago

Blueprint APS is a complete joke. Wheeling was dismantled for no reasons other than politics, ego, and “budget.” It was a Green Status school for three years running (would’ve been four if they had tested in 2020). They are replacing the MOST diverse staff in the district (we checked) with a predominantly white group and just slapped a black name on the building. APS claims to be investing THOUSANDS in the search for more diverse leadership, yet they destroyed a successful elementary school that already had prominent black leaders in place. The principal got punished for daring to protect what he had built for a decade.

Wheeling was an IB World school that focused primarily on college and career readiness, along with social emotional skills and traits. In other words, it was already focused on entrepreneurship, the whole child, and project-based learning. How much money is being spent to reinvent this wheel?

It is also wildly unclear why they are creating a K-8 campus just half a mile away from Aurora Hills, especially when APS keeps pumping out excuses tied to budget and low enrollment. Has anyone asked what this expansion will cost, let alone where these middle schoolers are coming from? There are rumors about a universal bussing program (cost?), which is interesting since there has been a bus driver shortage, causing many students to be up to 30 minutes late to school.

The mission of Blueprint APS is to force veteran teachers (and their salaries) out, along with any established expertise that is deemed to be a threat to the career goals of district “leaders.” Blueprint is an assault on expertise. It does not care what is already established. It is a flimsy attempt to create resume marks for the career climbers, the disconnected, while destroying communities in the process.

APS loves these mock “Community Input” events, where they pretend to listen to parents and staff. Wheeling’s parents gave “input” and then discovered that they were commenting on a future that was about to be banned from most of their children. Current students are being jammed into schools (next year) that have far worse data and are in turnaround status. The entire process was a disrespectful sham.

Please stop running district press releases as news stories. Do some homework.