Innovative STEAD Charter High School Closes on Loan Allowing Construction on NextGEN Agricultural Campus to Begin

Formal Capital Campaign, Student Recruitment and Hiring Staff Begins

Commerce City, CO – January 25, 2021 –​ Co-founders of the innovative agricultural charter high school slated for Commerce City, The ​STEAD ​ School, announced that the science-based and student-led agricultural high school closed on its phase-one construction loan. This key milestone allows the school’s construction to commence preparing for its inaugural class of 9​th​ graders to begin September, 2021.

The ​STEAD​ School’s (Science, Technology, Environment, Agriculture and Design) charter school application was approved by the 27J board of directors in October 2019. The STEAD​ concept is designed to attract and educate well-rounded students who may have specific interests in a broad range of career pathways that may include, but not exclusive to, animal, plant, environmental, and food sciences, representing thousands of career possibilities for these future leaders in business, policy, science, energy and health. The ​STEAD​ School will offer a unique approach to learning, grounded in real life, hands-on discoveries, experiences, relationships and solutions in agriculture.

The school intends to open in the fall with 175 9​th​graders, growing a grade per year thereafter. The school will educate an estimated 700 students when the campuses’ 10-acre project is completed in 2024. “We currently have over 140 families who have applied for spots in our first class which certainly reflects the need for a school that is focused on agriculture and the environment,” said Amy Schwartz, Co Founder of the school and Board Chair. “STEM schools are opening up all over the country with amazing transformation. Building on the success of S.T.E.M., ​STEAD​ combines the areas of science, technology, engineering and math with the important elements of environment, agriculture and systems design thinking that are all imperative in the environmentally-charged world our students live in today.”

The school’s authentic farm design, will create a campus supporting The ​STEAD School’s focus on personalized learning experiences for students through an active hands-on project-based learning platform. Enrollment is currently open to all 8th graders from School District SD27J, as well as students outside the district, based on availability and open-enrollment policies.

STEAD​ will fully integrate business entrepreneurship skills development into the school’s curriculum, aligning with post-secondary educational institutions like Colorado State University and Colorado’s established community college system, giving students the option to earn college credits, industry certificates, and a wealth of work-based learning experiences while in high school.

Kelly Leid, Executive Vice President of Community Operations of Oakwood Homes and Co-Founder of the school, began exploring the concept behind ​STEAD​ when leading the redevelopment of the National Western Complex​ for Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. “The campus will look and feel like an active farm with multiple buildings, including crops and animals that celebrate the heritage of our agricultural past, but on the inside ​STEAD​ will have high-tech, high-touch learning environments that promote stewardship, exploration and collaboration and harness the potential of students to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges,” added Leid. “In fact, ​STEAD’s​ post-labor day start is intended to reflect the days when students would return to school after the holiday since many were busy working on the family farm, tending to the year-end harvest.”

As construction begins, other critical elements are falling into place with the recent hiring of the school’s first principal, Kevin Denton, who comes to ​STEAD​ with a unique educational background and a heartfelt passion for the ​STEAD​ mission. “We want our students to live in the moment and not view high school as only a launching pad to standardized tests and getting into college,” said Denton. “We want them to thrive as high school students first so that they are prepared for anything their lives bring, post high school.”

STEAD​ ’s curriculum will be rigorous and combined with real-world experiences and learning platforms. “It’s no secret that our world is under unprecedented stresses,” added Denton. “Although not exclusive to those kids interested in agriculture, our classes are unique in that they will develop kids, who are caring and concerned about the Earth and food insecurities, as well as discovering new ways to change the world.”

Open enrollment period began in December 2020 and runs through February 15, 2021. The ​STEAD​ team has reached far and wide to recruit a diverse student body and teaching staff. Principal Denton is recruiting students from all walks of life. “Education should be available to any family who feels they’re looking for a specific direction.” The target enrollment is 175 students in the first class “Based upon current projections, we’re on pace to surpass that target and there’s a growing energy from interested students and families. It’s simply amazing!”

The ​STEAD​ School builds on the nearly two decades of community-centered school work Oakwood Homes has invested in under the leadership of its founder, Pat Hamill, president and CEO of Oakwood Homes. The school campus is located in the eastern portion of the 2,500-acre Reunion community, off 104​th​ and Tower Road.

Other Facts Surrounding the STEAD School:

Land: ​Cal Fulenwider, the owner of the land in and around what is now the Reunion community, ​knew the location for the STEAD school would be an ideal reflection and a testament of his grandfather’s experience in farming and ranching and an important role in carrying forward the legacy of Colorado’s agricultural heritage. For this reason the Fulenwider family donated the 10-acre site in Reunion where the school will reside.

Financing:​ With the school’s initial financing in place, the STEAD Board will formally launch the “Stewardship Capital Campaign” in February with a goal of raising $3.5 million over the next three to four years. Details of the capital campaign will be released in the coming weeks.

Architect:​ DLR Group

Construction:​ Saunders Construction, Denver-based

PR CONTACT: Aiello Public Relations & Marketing
Wendy Aiello 303-619-5162 or Jackie Griggs 303-300-2255