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AIMS looks at district charter, 2015 expansion to RR

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — The Albuquerque Institute for Mathematics and Science will likely attempt to become a district-chartered school this fall, rather than a state-chartered school, and might pursue a new school in Rio Rancho in fall 2015, its board members learned Thursday.

AIMS Director Kathy Sandoval-Snider said she hopes to follow the example of The Gordon Bernell charter school, based in Albuquerque, which recently expanded into Sandoval County, beyond the boundaries of APS, which authorized and oversees the school. The Bernell school serves inmates at Sandoval County Detention Center.

Sandoval-Snider, who made the announcements during a regular board meeting, said she will invite Mark Tolley, director of charter schools for Albuquerque Public Schools, to discuss the possible shift at the charter school’s August board meeting.

The state Public Education Department, which authorized the AIMS charter and approved an amendment in February 2013 for the school to expand to another campus, has been somewhat reluctant this year to approve the expansion of AIMS into Rio Rancho.

The AIMS charter school has until Oct. 1 to submit the paperwork for renewal of its about-to-expire charter. Sandoval-Snider said APS has become more charter-friendly and more than one charter school that left APS for the PEC has decided to return.

A court case involving Rio Rancho Public Schools, the PEC and the state Public Education Department might determine whether AIMS can expand from one district into another. At issue is a waiver of state granted by PED head Hanna Skandera to allow that expansion.

Sandoval-Snider said, depending on the outcome of that case, AIMS could open, from scratch, a new charter school at the University of New Mexico West campus in Rio Rancho in fall 2015, with cohorts of sixth- and seventh-graders. She did not elaborate.

AIMS previously proposed using two classrooms at UNM West this fall to house about 40 sixth-graders.

Around 40 Rio Rancho students attended AIMS last year, Sandoval-Snider said, and another 25 or so will join them this fall at the charter school’s location on the UNM South Campus.