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A Denver charter school focused on Indigenized curriculum will be closing its doors at the end of a school year due to low enrollment.

The American Indian Academy of Denver (AIAD) began enrolling middle and high schoolers in fall 2020, teaching them a curriculum “specifically designed to address the unmet needs of American Indian and Latino students in the Denver metro area,” according to the school’s website.

But as their three-year contract renewal approached, the school’s board of directors voted to give up the charter contract with the district.

“It was obviously a pretty tough decision,” said Nicholas Martinez, co-chair of the AIAD Board of Directors. “It really boils down to the fact that we didn't have the enrollment to sustain the school.”

As of November 2022, AIAD had enrolled 134 students in grades six through 10. In its 2018 application the school had predicted an enrollment number of 400 students in sixth to twelfth grade. This year, Martinez said, the school should have been enrolling between 250 to 300 students. 

The Board of Directors also listed “significantly lower than expected revenue; and significantly higher than expected costs,” as part of the “several challenges” leading to the school closure, according to the resolution.

In the school’s amended budget adopted Jan 30, 2023, the board had approved $3 million in expenditures. 

Martinez said there were a number of factors working against them since opening the school, including the fact that they opened during the pandemic, and that a large portion of the school’s budget went to renovating a DMV facility to create their existing school building.

“Had there been an opportunity to be in an existing school, or share a  campus, or occupy some sort of other building rather than renovating our own, we might have been able to do something different with budget,” Martinez told Native News Online. “But ultimately, it’s a numbers game. We just didn't have enough kids enrolling and ultimately that affected our ability to create a sustainable and solvent budget.”

Students came from more than 30 different zip codes to attend the charter school. 

“Unfortunately, there is no school similar to what we're offering,” he said. “Most of our students will probably go back to their home districts back to whatever school they are zoned for based on their residence.”

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About The Author
Jenna Kunze
Author: Jenna KunzeEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Senior Reporter
Jenna Kunze is a staff reporter covering Indian health, the environment and breaking news for Native News Online. She is also the lead reporter on stories related to Indian boarding schools and repatriation. Her bylines have appeared in The Arctic Sounder, High Country News, Indian Country Today, Tribal Business News, Smithsonian Magazine, Elle and Anchorage Daily News. Kunze is based in New York.