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Two new ABQ charter schools to open

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Two new Albuquerque charter schools are scheduled to open this summer — both targeting low-income families who want rigorous academics.

Altura Preparatory School and Albuquerque Collegiate Charter School eventually will offer kindergarten through fifth grades with a focus on high expectations for all students, according to their founders.

The two schools — both authorized by the state’s Public Education Commission — are replicating best practices from around the country, such as longer school days, data-driven instruction and intensive math and literacy classes.

Lida Alikhani, New Mexico Public Education Department spokeswoman, said Altura Preparatory and Albuquerque Collegiate “present great promise for the students of Albuquerque.”

“Both applicant teams committed to serving students in underserved attendance zones, in which all of the public schools currently operating have earned multiple D or F letter grades,” she said in a statement.

Here’s a closer look at the two schools.

Altura Preparatory

Location: 1400 San Mateo SE

School size: Launching with a total of 198 students in kindergarten, first and second grades, then adding a new grade each year through fifth grade.

Web: alturaprep.org

Located in the International District, Altura Preparatory will emphasize personalized learning and STEAM education — science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

Students will get to pursue their own projects each week during “Genius Hour” and improve their social-emotional skills through daily reflections.

Teachers will specialize in one or two core areas, such as math or reading, giving them the expertise to craft strong lessons.

Lissa Hines, Altura Preparatory School co-founder

The school is the brainchild of Lissa Hines, a “military brat” who launched her education career at La Mesa Elementary, and Meaghan Stern, an Albuquerque native and Teach for America alum.

Both have extensive experience working in low-performing Bay Area schools that saw dramatic improvements when they instituted reforms.

Stern, a Stanford graduate in education policy, also was involved in school turnaround in Memphis, Tenn., a charter school stronghold.

Meaghan Stern, Altura Preparatory School co-founder

“It can be done,” Hines said of school improvement. “I think you have to have data-driven practices. I think we are beginning to do that here in Albuquerque, but not to the extent that it is being done in different places.”

The pair hope their school will show that kids from every kind of background can become high achievers.

From the moment they enter their classrooms, Altura Preparatory School students will be taught to focus on getting to college.

“We’re going in this with the lens that we’re changing things,” Hines said. “I’ve seen what can be done when we re-think school. … People across the nation are dealing with issues of poverty, yet they have created schools where children are learning.”

To Stern, opening Altura Preparatory is a chance to give back to her hometown.

“It’s exciting to do this in a place that is meaningful for us,” she said. “There are good things going on (in Albuquerque), but we have to get the good pockets to grow.”

Albuquerque Collegiate

Location: Downtown area, exact site to be determined.

School size: Launching with a total of 120 students in kindergarten and first grades, then adding a new grade each year through fifth grade.

Web: albuquerquecollegiate.org

Jade Rivera, Albuquerque Collegiate Charter School founder

Albuquerque Collegiate founder Jade Rivera grew up in the 87102 ZIP code, a high-poverty area that covers Martineztown, Wells Park, Barelas, East San Jose, South Broadway and Downtown. The median income is $21,109, and 26 percent of families live below the poverty line. There are no A schools.

Rivera has set out to change that.

“ZIP code shouldn’t be any kind of barrier,” she said. “It’s too much of a barrier right now. If we want it to be different, we have to do something different.”

Albuquerque Collegiate aims to break down barriers through intensive education. Kindergarten, first and second grade classrooms will each have two teachers, while third- through fifth-grade classrooms will have no more than 20 students.

Compared to nearby district schools, Albuquerque Collegiate will offer more than double the literacy instruction and 1.5 times the math instruction.

The school day and year are also longer, adding up to 45 additional days of instruction.

Many parents are eager to get their children into Albuquerque Collegiate’s intensive program, according to Rivera.

“The feedback we’ve received from community members is that they are hungry for something like this,” she said.

Launching the school will be a change of pace for Rivera.

An Albuquerque High graduate, Rivera was a Teach for America corps member in Las Vegas, Nev., then found a policy job with the New Mexico PED.

Rivera said she is looking forward to getting back into the classroom.

“For us, the biggest thing is providing access to families who want this opportunity,” she said.

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