Pike building picked to house ‘twice exceptional’ charter school

       Pending expected Board of Education approval March 10, the former Pike Elementary building will have a new tenant in August - the Academy for Advanced & Creative Learning (AACL).

This was the playground scene during the farewell party for Pike Elementary last May. Plans call for a charter school to be there in 2010- 11.
Westside Pioneer file photo

       The recently formed K-8 District 11 charter school “will serve advanced, gifted, twice-exceptional and typical learners who want to excel,” a press release states.
       Anticipating 150-160 students at first, AACL will operate under a four-year contract in the building at 2510 N. Chestnut St. that's been occupied temporarily since last August by the Colorado Springs Youth Symphony Association (CSYSA).
       The symphony will relocate to space in the Jefferson school building, said CSYSA Executive Director Debi Krause-Reinsch, adding that the non-profit entity will miss the “gracious” Pike neighborhood and the high-ceiling Pike gym's “fabulous acoustics.”
       Pike Elementary had been in the building since it opened in 1956, but the school closed after the 2008-09 school year as part of D-11 economizing.
       The school board had approved a resolution conditionally approving the AACL plan at its Dec. 16 meeting. Since then, the school's leaders “have met all the conditions,” according to Kris Odom, D-11 procurement director. The District staff then offered the Pike space in response to AACL's request for a location that was centrally located and near I-25.
       “We are drawing from a huge demographic,” elaborated AACL Director Nikki Myers. “We've had interest from students in Monument, Woodland Park and Falcon and even Pueblo. We liked the access from I-25 and the school's connection to a park [Pike Park, just to the north], which gives us a huge, great space.” She said the school was also attractive for its “really nice stage,” which she predicted will get plenty of use from “a lot of creative kids.”
       A board vote against the move at this point would be a “big surprise,” Myers noted, pointing out that district staff have also given AACL the go-ahead to inform its families that Pike will be the school's site.
       The school will be tuition-free, with no admission requirements.
       The term “twice-exceptional” refers to students “who have very advanced skills in one or more areas but also have something that qualifies them for special educational support such as a specific learning disability (for example, a student who can't get the advanced thoughts written on paper), AD/HD, or other types of issues,” Myers wrote in an e-mail. “Some of these students may find that AACL is a great fit for their needs… The entire school program is designed around the needs of gifted learners who require advanced and complex content with a faster pace and less repetition than typical programs provide, with teachers who are specially trained to recognize and support these types of learning needs.”
       Until fall 2008, there had been a private school that specialized in twice-exceptional students. But when it closed, “a group of parents and teachers recognized the need for continued services to this group of learners” and formed the new school, the AACL website states.
       Plans call for the Pike move to occur during the summer, in conjunction with the CSYSA's relocation to Jefferson. Myers said she would like the school to make friends with the surrounding Mesa Springs neighborhood residents and businesses in the area, and she is beginning efforts to reach out to them.
       During the school's first year, the Pike space will be shared with the D-11 Records Department, which has used former classrooms this school year in the south end of the building. After that, “we'll be able to use the whole building,” Myers said.
       Thinking long-range, after four years and assuming a charter renewal at that time, “we will evaluate where we are in terms of student enrollment, strategic development plans aligned with our mission and any possible expansion options on that site as necessary,” she said.
       For more information about the school, call 434-6566 or go to the website: academyacl.org.

Westside Pioneer article