A K-8 performing arts-themed charter school is moving slowly through the approval process, aiming for a fall 2016 opening.
Parker Performing Arts School (PPAS) would accommodate 676 students, whose academic experience would include daily …
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Parker Performing Arts School (PPAS) would accommodate 676 students, whose academic experience would include daily involvement in the performing arts.
The project was initiated by the founder of Ben Franklin Academy, Jason Sanders, who also is proposing to launch the county’s first high school-only charter school, John Adams — possibly in Highlands Ranch sometime in the next two years.
Sanders, a patent attorney; John Carson, former Douglas County School Board president, CU Regent-elect and fellow attorney; and real estate broker Travis Cottle all are on the boards of directors for both John Adams High School and PPAS.
PPAS board president Catherine Piepenbrink said the three men will help launch the school and later be replaced on the board by parent volunteers.
Exposure to the arts at PPAS will start immediately, with classes in ballet and violin offered as early as kindergarten. Piano, guitar, voice, choir, musical theater and theater classes will be available to older students.
The project conceived two years ago has “had a few bumps” that have pushed back the original, hoped-for 2015 opening, Piepenbrink said.
PPAS made its preliminary submission to the Douglas County School District in 2014, then withdrew its application based on DCSD staff feedback. They plan to resubmit in early 2015 with what Piepenbrink said is a much stronger application.
“We’ve been revising and strengthening our charter application so we can submit the very strongest charter to Douglas County, one that is likely to be approved,” she said. “We expect approval from the district in the spring or early summer.”
Despite the delay, both proponents and prospective students remain excited.
The first day of school at PPAS can’t come soon enough for Parker resident Tiffany Maestas’ 8-year-old daughter Ryla, who already is a competitive dancer.
“Even when she was a baby, she would always be the entertainment at family gatherings,” her mother said. “She dances at the Colorado School of Dance in Parker, travels and competes in dance and is very passionate about musical theater. So she’s super excited about Parker Performing Arts. She asked me just last night, `When do I get to go to that school?’”
Maestas said the draw is more than just the performing arts. She plans to enroll her now 2-year-old son there, too.
“I don’t know if he’ll be as passionate about the performing arts as my daughter is, but I think all the qualities you develop while participating in the performing arts will definitely be an advantage — the creativity, self-confidence and collaboration,” she said. “The blended learning environment and technology they’re planning to use is just going to be amazing.”
Piepenbrink agreed, saying the skills needed to perform easily translate to the workplace, which means students who attend PPAS won’t necessarily make a career of the arts.
“There’s nothing better than having performed in plays or being a musician, having that dancer’s mind, to help deal with ambiguity, being creative, looking at problems from a different angle,” she said. “The people that are successful in jobs are creative and innovative.”
A love of or talent for the performing arts isn’t needed to attend the public school.
“We want to make it accessible to children of all levels,” said Piepenbrink, who has a degree in theater and an MBA in organizational leadership. “There will definitely be kids in our school who are prodigies and who excel. But there will also be kids for whom this will be their first introduction. We’ll have kids on both ends of the spectrum and everything in between.”
School supporters don’t yet have a site, but would like the building to be along the E-470 corridor with quick access to Interstate 25. That location would accommodate students they believe will come from a wide geographic area.
PPAS plans a series of community meetings starting in January. For more information, visit www.parkerperformingarts.org.
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