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New Commerce City charter high school focuses on next-generation agriculture

The Stead School opens Friday
New Commerce City charter high school focuses on next generation agriculture
Posted at 7:09 AM, Oct 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-05 17:01:44-04

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — It’s a new school, with a new acronym.

On Friday, The STEAD School will move into its new building in Commerce City. STEAD stands for science, technology, engineering, agriculture and systems design. The charter school in the Brighton 27-J school district is starting with just 9th graders, but will eventually include all high school grades. Students will choose one of four pathways, but the agriculture piece will be a big focus, specifically next-generation agriculture.

“The reality is we don't have enough resources the way we do things today to feed (a growing) population, and we need to build the next-generation of thinkers and problem solvers,” said Kelly Leid.

Leid is the director of lifestyle operations for Oakwood homes, which is building the 10-acre STEAD school campus. Leid initially came up with the idea for an agriculture-focused school while working for the Denver mayor’s office on the National Western Complex. When he returned to Oakwood homes, he brought his vision for the school to the Reunion development in Commerce City.

“We're at the nexus of rural, urban, and suburban interests,” Leid said, pointing out that the school is being built on what was once a 40,000-acre farm. The acronym STEAD is also a play on the word “homestead.”

“There's a real emphasis on the history, but also a focus on the future,” he said.

The school will have partnerships with Colorado State University, the National Western Complex, and Future Farmers of America. Once fully built, the campus will have animals, beehives and a greenhouse. Leid said the idea is that agriculture touches all industries, and students will also study topics like engineering, aerospace, and environmental design.

Another unique feature of STEAD is a focus on project-based learning.

Science teacher Amie Weldy said she and her husband moved to Colorado to work at The STEAD School specifically because of the hands-on model.

“We looked all across the United States for these innovative practices and just really breaking down the barriers of what a traditional high school looks like,” Weldy said.

Students will regularly stay engaged in projects based on the topics they’re studying.

Freshman Sophia Mendoza said she liked the fact that she wouldn’t be sitting in a classroom all day.

"It had a lot of interesting opportunities that you don't get out of normal high school," Mendoza said.

The students have been attending school in another building since August but spent several weeks on the new campus painting a mural and preparing for the opening of their new school.

Freshman Olivia O'Leary said she was looking forward to moving in.

“It’s really exciting to just be able to create a legacy for the school and start it off,” she said.