BY FREDA MIKLIN
The Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade counts our state as “the nation’s second-largest aerospace economy, with more than 400 companies who are leading and supporting groundbreaking missions related to space and planetary science.” They report that the annual industry payroll is $3.2 billion for aerospace engineers, software and systems developers, business operations specialists and mechanical engineers. Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation reports average industry salaries of almost $130,000 and 5-year employment growth of 7.3 percent through 2017. Top aerospace companies in our region include familiar names like Lockheed Martin, Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp., The Boeing Company and Northrop Grumman.
In that environment, an educational path to the aerospace industry is something John Barry has long believed was needed. Barry is a former Aurora Public Schools superintendent and retired 2-star United States Air Force general. After taking over leadership of the Wings Over the Rockies Museum (WOTR) in 2016, he started on that path by building a new WOTR facility at Centennial Airport in Englewood. The Exploration of Flight campus at Centennial Airport opened last year and is designed to be both a museum and educational facility.
Colorado Skies Academy (CSA) is a nonprofit middle school (grades 6, 7 and 8) scheduled to open this fall on the Exploration of Flight campus. It has partnered with iLead Schools, a cutting-edge charter school company from California, and will be run by a local board under a charter from the Cherry Creek School District.
The Villager spoke to CSA board member April Lanotte, an educator who has over 20 years of experience in middle and high schools. She told said CSA will use project-based learning to deliver its full curriculum, including lessons in math, social studies, language arts and science. Adding that project-based learning is already used in other Cherry Creek Schools but will be the standard teaching method at CSA. Students will be prepared to take and participate in all regular standardized tests administered in the district and the school will follow the Cherry Creek Schools calendar. It will be open to all interested students at all ability levels. As with any charter school, students wishing to attend are expected to complete the necessary paperwork to start at the beginning of the school year in August. Parents will need to provide students’ transportation, as is typical with charter schools in the district.
Lanotte said candidates for teaching positions are interviewing now and “Teaching in a project-based format requires a certain type of teacher who embraces inquiry and building critical thinking skills in a project-based environment.”
Amer Kuric, interim CEO of iLead Schools said they plan to build a school building on the Exploration of Flight campus, to be completed by spring, 2020. The design plan is finished, and they are presently identifying contractors to complete construction of the building, which will have capacity for 400 students in flexible learning spaces for group learning. CSA will begin its operations in temporary structures. Kuric said that they already have 160 students and are planning for staff and facilities to accommodate up to 225 this school year.
For more information about CSA, go to coloradoskiesacademy.org. To learn about iLead schools’ history and philosophy, go to ileadschools.org. Parent information nights are being held regularly to provide additional information. Call 303-900-4086 for dates.
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