Representatives from about 54 charter and magnet schools provided information and gave presentations on different options for Albuquerque Public Schools’ students during a School Choice Fair at the Berna Facio Development Center on Monday.
According to an APS press release, the fair is “designed to match students to their best possible educational experience.” Traditional public schools offer a range of options for students, but some students seek alternative pathways to graduation.
College & Career High School Assistant Principal Matthew Kraus explained that some students are more suited for an accelerated curriculum that allows them to earn an associate degree while enrolled in high school. The school, located on the Central New Mexico Community College campus, accepts students from anywhere in New Mexico. Kraus said about 75 of the 225 applicants are accepted through a lottery system each year.
Freedom High School principal Esther Keeton said other students may want to attend a school that allows them to earn credits for working while simultaneously earning their diploma. She said students at Freedom can graduate early by finishing coursework ahead of schedule while getting more individualized attention because of the small student body.
A representative from the Technology Leadership High School said students there are provided a project-based learning curriculum with a focus on technology. The free public high school also offers evening courses for students ages 18-21.
Many of the charter schools being represented at Monday’s fair offer K-12 and 6-12 programs. Cottonwood Classical Preparatory School accepts students in grades 6-12 and offers an International Baccalaureate program. According to a pamphlet provided by the school, about 95% of its students go on to attend four-year colleges and universities, 4% attend two-year colleges and 1% joined the military.
In addition to all the schools at the fair, representatives from the APS Education Foundation were on hand to provide information about grants that are available for various programs. Shannon Barnhill, executive director for the foundation, said several schools in the Northeast Heights received funding over the years, including North Star Elementary School, which received funding for a maker space.
“They have a pullout program where they go and kids learn how to code, and it’s by grade level,” Barnhill said. “So, kindergartners are working with little robots that are like little dominoes that you tell what direction you think it needs to go to get across the table. And they might have to do two right turns and then a left turn. So, they try and put it together and then they go with their robots to see if it will follow that code. Sometimes it goes right off the table, sometimes it goes straight because they are learning, but they love it. And then fifth graders are actually on the computer coding games.”
Desert Ridge Middle School received funding from the foundation for a DJ club, and Eisenhower Middle School received funding for the Where Everybody Belongs, or WEB, program. The WEB program pairs eighth graders with sixth graders to help them navigate the school as new students.
“The eighth graders, they make those kids feel welcome,” Barnhill said. “They have their buddies the whole year. And they do dances together, assemblies together, team-building activities. We funded that one.”
The foundation has also sponsored magic clubs, cooking clubs, gardening clubs, leadership programs and a whole host of other programs, including the drone program being demonstrated by West Mesa High School at the next table over.
“We provided them funding for their drone program,” Barnhill said. “We’re focused on completely innovative and creative opportunities. It’s to kind of give the teachers those resources that they need because a traditional operational budget, as we all know, doesn’t cover all of those innovative resources that they need.”
Israel Moore, a first lieutenant in West Mesa’s NJROTC program, showed off some of the rockets and robots built by students in the program. A 3-D printer was in operation, building transition parts for the rockets, and underwater drones were also on display at the table.
“These are manufactured as well as student made,” Moore said. “These are by a CNC laser cutter as well as 3-D printed components. We go through competition, pick up things off the ground, go through loops as fast as possible and as accurate as possible. And then we compete at a national level if we perform well.”
West Mesa sophomore and ROTC ensign Kodi Pittman said the school’s program provides a unique experience for students. “We’re one of the more hands-on programs in the state,” Pittman said. “A lot of other ROTC programs will study Naval history, Army history, but we like to build stuff. Build rockets, launch rockets, race drones, launch high-altitude balloons.”
The ROTC program at West Mesa, like other APS schools, provides elective credits for students.
Those interested in earning credits in other areas such as medicine, engineering, computer technology, languages, trades and businesses can attend the Early College Academy and Career Enrichment Center located on Albuquerque High School’s campus. Students can receive certification in nursing, EMT and autos and also take courses from CNM.
Lesley Pacheco, a senior at Highland High School, is currently enrolled in a cosmetology class at CEC. She was busy showing off her skills in makeup special effects, creating life-like wounds on the arms of fair attendees.
James Soto, a cosmetology instructor at CEC, said the course not only provides experience for students interested in working at beauty salons, but it can also transfer over into the film industry. He said if anyone in special effects is interested in giving a presentation at CEC, they can contact him at email@example.com.
For more information on the different options students have at APS, visit the Office of Innovation and School Choice website at aps.edu/innovation.