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Denair Academic Avenues gives parents, students choices
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Students at Denairs one-year-old charter school, Denair Academic Avenues, are receiving the opportunity to learn about drama, music, art and technology through the schools pathways program. ABOVE: Students display the Coyote Creed sign while becoming silent during classroom instruction. At D2A there are few hard fast rules, except for the creed by which students conduct themselves. - photo by JONATHAN MCCORKELL / The Journal

When Denair Academic Avenues opened last year the administration and staff wanted to give parents a choice. Choices and exploring new “avenues” in learning are what Denair’s only full time, classroom-based charter school is all about.

Known as D2A, the school is a dependent charter of the Denair Unified School District and it offers full core curriculum standards in English language arts, science, social studies, physical education and mathematics.

However, what D2A Learning Director Becky Julien says is different is a daily block of elective classes so students can explore different pathways, as well as a daily dose of Spanish language instruction for all grades.

Students attend core classes for about two-thirds of the day and then spend two hours in pathways classes such as music, drama, art and computers. Every five weeks students rotate their pathway class — which Julien said provides a “whole” education.

For children who need extra help in core classes, a student can attend a special intervention period instead of an elective.

“The kids are so committed to improving they will voluntarily elect to miss a pathway class if they feel they need more work in math or reading. It’s amazing how committed these kids are,” said Julien.

The commitment could be starting in the home. Since D2A is a charter school, it has what those involved call a “mini school board,” otherwise known as an advisory committee made up of parents and D2A teachers and administrators. The committee handles the logistical and educational side of school operations. In collaboration with the committee is the Coyote Pack, which handles fundraising efforts.

Parent April Dunham-Filson praised the school’s curriculum.

“I love the school and the educational philosophy that the teachers and administration have used since the school opened. This reminds of like an ‘old school’ education because the school incorporates all aspects of education and it really drew me to the school,” she said.

Dunham-Filson said the smaller class sizes are a plus as well. As part of the school’s charter, class size must not exceed a 20 student to one teacher ratio in grades K-3 and a 22 to 1 ratio in fourth grade.

Another unique aspect of D2A, said Julien, is that there are no hardcore rules, but the Coyote Creed — a creed which students model their social interaction and behavior by. The creed is simple enough: “To be a Coyote repeat in your mind, be safe, be responsible be respectful and kind.”

“We don’t stand out there during recess and say don’t do this or don’t do that. We ask the kids if they are honoring the Coyote Creed and how to solve whatever problem they are having,” said Julien.

D2A is gaining interest. This year enrolled students are coming from communities outside Denair like Oakdale, Modesto, Keyes, Hughson, Hickman and Turlock, and the school added a fourth grade. The school has also seen success in its test scores. Last year second and third graders at D2A took their state standards test and scored an impressive 818 on the performance index — the highest in Denair Unified School District.

“This is exciting for us. We know that number is going to go up because the teachers there are doing an incredible job. This has been a success because it’s kind of like what were able to do years ago before all the budget cuts,” said DUSD Superintendent Edward Parraz.

To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.