Gifted and talented kids numbering 1,150 walked through the doors of the largest charter school project in Colorado, called the Stargate School, on August 24. The students were part of the Adams 12 Five Star School District and their new campus is located on a 43-acre campus in North Thornton, Colorado.
Until now, Stargate School was a K-8 facility in a residential portion of Thornton. But the extensive new project has turned Stargate into a huge, open-plan campus that encompasses a high school and has doubled its entire student enrollment capability.
"We were K-8 for 20 years, and we started having 50 percent of our 8th graders who were supposed to stay in the Adams 12 School District leaving to go to different place because they couldn't find the right fit," said Josh Cochran, executive director of Stargate School. "We worked with our community and our governing board and decided that we wanted to start our own high school.".
The charter school is the second largest in the country. The project was funded through Certificates of Participation, which will reimburse investors in increments over 30 years. The average annual investor payment total will be approximately $3.5 million.
The original plan was to add only a high school and move middle school and elementary students into their individual schools over time. But because the school passed a bond in 2014, the building of the complete campus became possible.
Although the charter does not charge tuition, students who attend the school must pass an admissions test.
The school layout will include a 70-acre mixed-use area that will house retail and commercial business locations, nature trails, community art gardens, along with a career and technical education center that will partner with Adams 12. Stargate officials will have a say about any future site development.
Stargate, founded by a group of parents in 1994, is located about ten miles northeast of Denver. The new and improved grounds include two academic buildings, a 25,000 square-foot field house and weight room. Other features are breakout spaces for each academic building and a learning commons/maker-space for young people to pursue their "passion projects," according to John Caulfield of the Building Design + Construction Network website.
The older students' building includes industrial fabrication tools as well as a recording studio. The elementary school features an amphitheater that can reverse from facing the quad to facing the inside of the K-5 building.
The public-private partnership that developed the project included Stargate, the landowner, the City of Thornton, and investors.
Stargate is also the largest school in the state that serves gifted students. Cochran points out:
"We have designed new makerspaces in each of our buildings where students will create through a âHands On Minds On' approach that aligns with our values of gifted education."
The design team for the development was the architectural firm Hord Coplan Macht, and the construction company JHL Constructor were the builders, reports Caitlin Hendee, writing for the Denver Business Journal.
Adele Willson of Hord Coplan Macht noted that the design of the campus and the variety of spaces for learning and teaching reflect the "innovative educational vision" of Stargate's board members and leadership with whom the design team worked from the beginning of the project.
Stargate sold its former building to the Archdiocese of Denver, which is planning to continue using it as a school.