Students are back to schools around the Tricounty, including one of the area’s two charter schools, the Estancia Valley Classical Academy, which will move students into its new Edgewood campus in early November if all goes according to plan.
That’s according to the schools executive director, Tim Thiery. “I want to be very careful with predictions,” Thiery said, adding, “So far things are on schedule.”
The new campus sits on 20 acres on N.M. 344 in Edgewood, a move from its current location on Route 66 in Moriarty, where the school occupies portable buildings.
Eventually the campus will include sports fields, but it already includes a full-size gym. “First of all, our P.E. Classes will have a much better space to work with—our P.E. teacher is getting the biggest upgrade,” he said.
“We had a need for all-school convocations, or events where all parents are invited, which we can do now in our own facility.
One of the hallmarks of the school, which features a classical education including classes in Latin starting in junior high grades has been a morning ceremony in which students gather around the flag for the pledge of allegiance. “We have the circular courtyard now for our opening ceremonies, which is better for hearing. Students do recitations and their classmates can hear them much better,” Thiery said.
The kindergarten through 12th grade charter school has about 550 students, and had outgrown its current location, where some teachers shared classroom space.
About 200 students comprise grades 7 and up, with 16 seniors this year. “Each teacher will get their own room here, a luxury by world standards, but standard procedure by American standards.”
The school has added a computer science course, part of its science and math offerings, and the new campus will have an additional computer lab, he said, adding that it will make it easier to do computerized testing. “We always try to make that the least impactful possible,” Thiery said.
Extracurricular activities include sports through partnerships with Moriarty-Edgewood School District, East Mountain High School and APS.
The school also has an archery club, a Civil Air Patrol club which meets a few days a week, and a robotics club that dovetails with computer science. A new initiative is a mountain bike club, Thiery said.
Estancia Valley Classical Academy has a full-time art teacher, and offerings include visual arts, a high school choir and music classes for all grades, and a drama club.
The school does not currently include vocational classes, but Thiery said the school is exploring a partnership with Moriarty High School.
“In our classical model, we talk about the true, the good and the beautiful,” Thiery said. “The arts are an expression of the human soul and the spirit of beauty. It speaks deeply to us, so we put a high value on that. … Also, the arts have a unique way of expressing oneself that is uniquely human dimension, the desire to be creative and expressive, and we value that as well. We think the other academic disciplines feed, import and draw materials into that realm.”
The school places a high priority in the study of source documents over textbooks, especially at the upper levels, he said. EVCA offers Latin classes to student starting in 6th grade, and students must pass two years of Latin to graduate, he said.
While the school has offered other languages in the past, this year study of additional languages will be online. “We’d rather teach it in-house, but that’s not where we are this year,” Thiery said, explaining that teachers were assigned to other classes.
The school got a grant of $76,000 for STEM, or classes in science, technology, engineering and math. “We’re very strong on those areas on state testing,” Thiery said. “We’re proud of our science and math programs. We’re going to be able to add even more to our lab experience.” That means that in addition to having brand new science and computer labs, the school will be able to equip them. “We don’t want to supplant the more organic things and go to all simulations,” Thiery said.
The school is planning an educational trip to Italy in June, where students will have the opportunity to visit sites they have learned about. The 8-day tour will include “a lot of places we study in the classical model and literature that we read.”
In terms of staff, the school has added a dean of students, who will help students track progress and serve as a guidance counselor, taking that load from Thiery.
The school’s goal is to create a culture of learning, Thiery said, that will encourage all students to achieve at the highest level. “That’s the culture we’re trying to build. … Success breeds success and it’s a joyful thing. Students like to be successful.”