American Indian Academy proposes innovation status to stay open in DPS
The American Indian Academy of Denver (AIAD) is asking Denver Public Schools to grant the school innovation status.
The school has been fighting to keep its doors open despite its small population of students.
Indigenous families rallied in November saying the school's unique programs and teaching of Native languages such as Dineh and Lakota are helping their children thrive.
The school's board of directors says changing from a charter school to an innovation school would enable the Academy to receive more funding from DPS for needs such as special education and transportation. And the school could serve any student in metro Denver with its indigenized curriculum.
"Our curriculum is amazing so moving to an innovation school would have some adjustments but not major adjustments to how we're already operating and specifically what we're already teaching," said AIAD parent and board member Veronica Lightning Horse Perez.
DPS said in a statement, "Denver Public Schools has offered to partner with AIAD to bolster the Native American programming at DCIS Baker in an effort to serve the students currently enrolled at AIAD. This would begin at the beginning of the 2023-24 school year."
This is a solution AIAD parents oppose, according to Perez. The school's leadership wants to maintain the autonomy innovation status would preserve. DPS has offered programs for Native students before, yet Native graduation rates have remained low. She said, "Creating yet another program when the existing programs we have don't work doesn't feel reasonable."
The letter of intent sent to DPS asking for innovation status was sent January 17th, according to AIAD. The letter says that the school "experienced a tremendously negative impact from the COVID19 crisis during its second year of operation." The letter proposes the following:
- AIAD requests to remain in operation serving grade 6-11 during the 2023-2024 school year as a planning year. (Enrollment projections to follow)
- AIAD would open as a DPS fully fledged innovation school serving grades 6-12 for the 2024-2025 school year.
- AIAD would remain in our current location at 1865 W Mississippi Ave. for the 2023-2024 school year.
- AIAD's Board of Directors would commit to fundraising to cover the costs of all facility costs at 1865 W Mississippi Ave for the 2023-2024 school year.
- Transportation would need to be determined for the 2023-2024 school year.
Perez added, "This is a beautiful thing we've created that is just massive for the way the kids see the world and the opportunities that they can build. And being able to take traditions that have kept us alive for so long and offer that to as many people who are willing to learn it."
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