Grand Junction’s Independence Academy breaks ground on new school
Since Damon Lockhart became principal at Independence Academy, the student body has more than doubled in size — from 138 students in 2007 to 349 currently.
The Mesa County Valley School District 51’s public charter school — located at 600 N. 14th St. in Grand Junction — is subsequently busting at the seams and it recently started construction on a new, larger structure.
“We have reached full capacity,” Lockhart said. “It’s a good thing for us to buy instead of rent as well to have a place to call our own.”
Construction of the $4.5 million facility began in November at 651 29 Road in Grand Junction with hopes of opening by next school year.
“We are super exited for the new facility,” said Abbie Siegmund, an Independence Academy board member and mother of three. “The faculty will have their own space and can modify the building to make it our own.”
According to Lockhart, the new building is 18,000 square feet and it will utilize an additional 18,000 square feet of modular classroom space. This will allow for larger classrooms. The location off 29 Road also offers the school more than 40 acres, which Lockhart hopes to use for outdoor programs like gardening.
The initial funding for the school came from a loan, but Lockhart and his team hope to raise another $728,000 to add bleachers to the gym, landscaping, a school marquee, scoreboard in the gym and more. Current funding efforts have raised around $12,000 since breaking ground in the beginning of December.
“Right now the building is going to be very basic, but enough to function as a school,” Lockhart said. “These are just some things that will make the school more complete and be helpful.”
ABOUT THE SCHOOL
Independence Academy opened in 2004 as Deep River Charter, and in 2007 its name was changed to Independence Academy when it became a district-sanctioned school. Students attend from all over Mesa County, including Fruita and Palisade.
“The numbers kind of speak to that need of alternative learning,” Lockhart said. “There’s a demand for options in education.”
Currently the school teaches students between kindergarten and eighth grade. With the expansion, Lockhart hopes to add a pre-school component as well.
Independence Academy aims for a smaller student-to-teacher ratio of 20 to one. The school currently employs more than 20 staff members.
“We are like family being so small,” Lockhart said. “Plus, we have a lot of community and district support.”
For more information or to donate, visit http://www.independence.mesa.k12.co.us.
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