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Denair charts new path for elementary education
denair elementary
Kindergarten students dance together during Denair Elementary School's Week of the Young Child celebration in April 2014. The Denair Unified School District is preparing to change its traditional elementary program into a charter school for the 2015-16 year. - photo by Journal file photo

The Denair Unified School District is looking to pull from the strengths of its existing traditional elementary school and Denair Academic Avenues, a charter school formed in 2010, by creating a brand new primary charter program.

 “This new charter is projected to be the preeminent elementary education leader of its type in our local region,” said Superintendent Aaron Rosander.

In an effort to proactively address the expiration of Denair Academic Avenues’ charter at the end of this school year, DUSD began writing a charter for the new Denair Elementary Charter Academy in December.

 “The decision to create a new charter school has come forward due to a variety of reasons,” said Principal Sara Michelena, who oversees both sites. “The first reason being that both schools and sets of teachers have so much to offer that we simply thought it would be to our students’ benefit to have the whole site under one umbrella. The second reason is the opportunity to start new programs and improve the programs we currently offer to our Denair students.”

According to Michelena, the greatest strength that will be fused into the new charter is the quality of teachers incorporated from both sites.

The principal reported that the 12 teachers at the Denair Elementary School and the eight teachers at Denair Academic Avenues have already shown their support for the merger by participating in shared activities, one of which is a 20-minute assembly on Friday mornings.

“Our teachers are exemplary and highly motivated to provide the best educational opportunity for our students,” wrote Michelena. “They firmly believe that all students can, and will, succeed. The culture of universal achievement runs strongly throughout our schools and District.”

The charter will include a rotated schedule format, which will give teachers an opportunity to focus their skills on one discipline, as well give students an opportunity to better hone in on the subject matter being taught.

Included in the formation of Denair Elementary Charter Academy is a proposed Spanish lab style format for elementary. Michelena reports that this idea generated from a Spanish pull-out program run by Denair Academic Avenues teacher Donna Williams.

“She has built a program that is unparalleled in the area,” added Michelena. “The proposed lab will include bilingual instructional paraeducators, a technology center, a foreign language library and a component for parents wishing to learn Spanish or English.”

Michelena and site leadership are currently exploring dual language immersion programs throughout the state, as the new charter plans to offer the first of a strand of these bilingual classes. Once implemented, the program is slated to begin with kindergarten and continue through middle school, where students will then be accessed and placed to Spanish classes reflective of their skill level.

Other things expected to accompany the arrival of the Denair Elementary Charter Academy is the No Excuses University program, which will emphasize the important of a college education, as well as an enhanced application of fine arts in the form of music and art instruction throughout the year.

“The creation of this new charter school will give even more pride to a wonderful community,” concluded Michelena. “The citizens of Denair are truly dedicated to their children and only want to see them prosper. We are thrilled to propose programs that will serve the community and children, in what we think will be the school of the future.”

Once completed, the charter will go before the DUSD Board of Trustees for approval. Registration for the Denair Elementary Charter Academy will begin once the state has officially approved the charter.

To learn more about Denair Elementary Charter Academy, email or visit