A proposed Santa Fe charter school focused on science, the arts and social-emotional learning — and founded by former employees of the public school district — received strong support Thursday during a hearing before the state Public Education Commission.
About 20 people spoke in favor of Thrive Community School, including educators at Santa Fe Public Schools, leaders of youth nonprofits, parents and business owners.
District Superintendent Hilario “Larry” Chavez cast doubt, however, on whether the new school was in the best interest of the district, which has seen its enrollment decline.
During the coronavirus pandemic, 615 students left the district, creating a possible $6 million budget shortfall for the current fiscal year.
“With previous discussions at our Board of Education meetings on school closure due to loss of enrollment and under the state of emergency due to the pandemic, the application is contrary to the best interests of Santa Fe Public Schools and the district,” Chavez said.
If the Public Education Commission approves a charter for Thrive, its founders aim to eventually serve up to 600 K-8 students within the district.
Four area educators are leading the effort to open Thrive, including prospective director Sean Duncan, a school psychologist who recently worked in Santa Fe Public Schools as a reading specialist; Julie Lucero, who retired this spring from her post as director of special education at the district; and former Nina Otero Community School Principal Angelia Moore.
The school’s focus on STEAM — science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics — and social-emotional learning, along with an emphasis on professional development for teachers, set it apart from other educational opportunities in the area, the co-founders said.
According to its charter application, the school would recruit students with the help of local organizations that work with underserved communities.
The co-founders said they hoped to one day open the school in a south-side location, but could start in 2022-23 by leasing the former Desert Academy campus off Old Santa Fe Trail. The school would serve 185 students in its first year: 66 kindergartners, 22 first grade students, 22 second grade students and 75 sixth graders.
Capital High School business teacher Juan Acevedo, who said he was speaking as both a father and educator, praised the Thrive co-founders for their interest in equity and the school’s modes of education.
“As an educator being in high school, the public schools, I had been seeing a lot of gaps that our students have that they carry [from] elementary and middle school in terms of reading, critical thinking and problem solving but also in their social-emotional development,” Acevedo said.
The Public Education Commission, which oversees charter schools across New Mexico, will take a vote next month on whether to approve a charter for Thrive.
The commission will take written comments on the Thrive application until Tuesday at