Local charter school preparing to open in new building next week
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IDAHO FALLS – Construction crews are putting the finishing touches on the new Alturas Preparatory Academy next to the Grand Teton Mall in Idaho Falls.
Principal Brian Bingham tells EastIdahoNews.com more than 300 students from Idaho Falls School District 91, Bonneville Joint School District 93 and Shelley Joint School District 60 will begin school in the 73,000-square-foot building on Aug. 30.
“(Pro Builders Inc.) started renovation in January of 2021 and so they’ve done a lot … to completely gut and reconstruct the inside within eight months,” Bingham says. “It’s incredible what they’ve done to get us this close to the finish line so students can walk in on Monday and have brand-new classrooms.”
The new building inside the old Sears location nearly triples the size of its old location in the O.E. Bell building at 151 North Ridge Avenue, which was for students in sixth through eighth grade. Kindergarten through fifth grade will remain at the old location and grades 6-10 will attend the new building. Grades 11 and 12 will be added in 2022 and 2023 respectively.
There are several unique features staff and administrators are excited about. Bingham says each classroom comes with a garage-style door that opens into the hallway to promote collaboration among students.
“We anticipate English and history classes being able to come together and do a cross-curricular project where what they’re learning in history can be reinforced in English and vice versa. We’re really excited that students … can come together in these wide hallways that are furnished and collaborate,” says Bingham.
Art teacher Shannon Claver is excited about the school’s new kiln, which is used for baking projects made of clay.
Get a look inside in the video player above.
Collaboration is an integral part of the school’s educational philosophy, which focuses on teaching students in small groups according to their instructional levels, rather than in large lectures according to grade level.
By having students work together, Bingham says it helps prepare them for the real world.
“When you go to work, you know what’s expected of you and you don’t need your boss to tell you what to do. It’s the same in the classroom,” he says. “Oftentimes in traditional classrooms, teachers will get after students for talking, but how many times do we as adults reach out to a co-worker and ask how you do (something)? Through that collaboration, you’re able to arrive at a better point. That’s something we’re trying to break the mold with our students.”
Bingham says they also focus on being “internationally-minded” by looking at what each student brings to the table, regardless of race or cultural differences, and how they can come together as a community.
“There is a lot of divisiveness with different cultures and different curriculums,” he says. “Right now is a crazy time to run a school because you’ve got all these different voices coming at you trying to tell you what you need to do. We’re trying to teach our students that it doesn’t matter what the differences are. We all have our own set of beliefs, but we need to find that common ground and come together for a greater purpose.”
Bingham says Alturas has been successful because kids who attend feel a sense of community and enjoy being at school. Building relationships with the students and watching them enjoy the learning process is what he finds most rewarding.
Alturas first opened in 2016 in the old Boy Scout Office at 3910 South Yellowstone Highway. There were about 260 students in the first year. It’s since grown to include a total of about 900 students at both locations.
Between both locations, Bingham says there is a waitlist of at least 400 students wanting to apply.
Bingham sees the idea of teaching students based on where they’re at academically and not on their biological age as the direction education should be headed. He says the long-term goal is to offer Alturas’s instructional model on the state level.
“Once we get this established and up and running really well, we want to look at starting another elementary school somewhere,” he says. “We really want to continue to grow and … be able to change the status quo of teaching 30 students at a time the same thing.”
Bingham is proud of the fact that the school was completed without increasing taxpayer dollars. The $12 million project was funded through donations and a grant from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation, BLUUM and a federal CSP program.