AURORA | A ceremony held Thursday formalizing a new partnership between the Aurora Public Schools District and the City of Aurora saw city and school leaders vowing collaboration and strength in the wake of local tragedy.
The ceremony, which included a signing of a formal agreement by Superintendent John Barry, Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan, Aurora City Manager Skip Noe and APS Board President JulieMarie Shepherd, was held in the new Aurora Hills Middle School building – a $24.2-million, 130,000-square-foot structure funded as part of the $208-million bond proposal passed by voters in 2008.
The agreement will see the district and the city sharing resources and facilities in the coming years, a collaboration that’s set to include internships for APS students as part of the district’s specialized “Pathways” program. As part of four formal career programs based in health sciences, business, arts and science, students will have access to city departments ranging from the city clerk’s office to the police.
The agreement’s official timeframe is three years, but it will automatically be renewed, barring formal cancellation.
“These pathways we’re offering, now in partnership with the city, are hands-on, relevant learning to prepare our students for higher education,” Barry told a crowd that included city council members, APS board members, state representatives and administrators from the Community College of Aurora. “We are providing choices to students. They have choices not only between schools, but they have choices within schools.”
The ceremony quickly took on a broader significance than the document at hand, as speakers spoke to the importance of community and collaboration following the July 20 shootings at the Century Aurora 16 theater.
Before detailing the new partnership, Hogan formally thanked the school district for opening campuses like Gateway and Aurora Central high schools in the hours immediately following the shootings.
“Between the city and the school district, we’ve worked together. It even goes back to the 1990s, but it’s been an informal partnership … I believe that to really become that community and cement the relationship, we need to make it official. We need to engage in that Aurora contract,” Hogan said. “This city is different than it was three weeks ago, but this city is stronger than it was three weeks ago … We will move forward in cooperation.”
Hogan added that the contract doesn’t carry additional costs.
The district’s pathways program started four years ago with collaborations between schools like Aurora Central and the budding Anschutz Medical Campus on the former Fitzsimons Army base. Since then, the initiative has grown into a district-wide system with four distinct branches and several subcategories, or “institutes.”
Partners in the program include the University of Colorado Hospital, the Denver Art Museum, Raytheon and a long list of other local businesses.