Wings Over the Rockies museum pushes to override Cherry Creek denial for Skies charter school

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AURORA | Advocates of an aerospace-focused charter school are drumming up public support to save the school after the Cherry Creek School District Board of Education revoked its conditional approval in November.

Cherry Creek officials argued that the prospective school, Colorado Skies Academy, failed to prove that students and parents were interested in the space-centric curriculum.

Wings Over the Rockies aviation museum CEO John Barry and other school boosters will appear next week at a state board of education meeting considering whether Cherry Creek’s revocation was warranted.

And, if all goes to plan, so will a crowd of supporters, museum officials said.

Cherry Creek schools officials were not available for comment Thursday.

Barry and others have undertaken a campaign to show support for the school with social media, parent meetings, flyers, email newsletters and informational booths at the Wings museum.

The idea is to flood Cherry Creek officials’ emails with letters of support and gather a “sea of people” at the Jan. 9 state Board of Education meeting, said Colorado Skies board co-founder April Lanotte.

She said the outreach plan is working.

“I think the best result is that we’ve had a tremendous amount of support, from new interest, but also seeing the dedication and support from parents interested in seeing this school happen,” she said.

The school is Barry’s brainchild and supported by California-based charter school network iLead Schools.

Barry is a former Air Force general who became superintendent of Aurora Public Schools after retiring from the military. He then took the reins of Boys and Girls Club of Denver and most recently, the Wings museum.

The school campus on Centennial Airport would be part of two new museums, focusing on space and flight. The school would focus on aerospace education and careers. The Cherry Creek School Board’s decision in November scrubbed months of negotiations between the district and Colorado Skies for the ambitious middle school project.

In October, the Cherry Creek school board approved the charter school on the condition that it submit plans for special education and other requirements, including filing evidence that enough students were interested in the school to warrant a 2019 opening.

Abbe Smith, Cherry Creek school district spokesperson, said in November the district required specific forms called letters of intent to enroll. The list Colorado Skies submitted of almost 200 parties as proof of interest was not considered.

Colorado Skies since appealed the decision to the state Board of Education, which can eventually force Cherry Creek to accept the school’s application.

The Jan. 9 meeting could be the first in a long legal battle to open to the school. Even so, Lanotte said she was optimistic.

“I think it is going to happen,” she said of the school.