Fifth-grader Ella Stasiak tugged at her pale blue Aspen View Academy blouse.
“It’s just kinda scratchy,” she said.
Her friend and neighbor, third-grader Carter Shelton, fiddled with the ends of his blue tie.
“I think it’s better to wear uniforms,” he said. “It’s not that hard to get dressed every morning.”
Stasiak and Shelton were among 650 uniformed students reporting for their first day of school at Aspen View Academy, Douglas County’s newest school; 200 more students are on a waiting list. That’s an irony for the school’s founder, Jonathan Nye, who was inspired to build Aspen View by years-long waiting lists he found at other area charter schools.
On Sept. 3, his three children were among the hundreds who flowed through the doors for the first time.
“I’m elated,” said Nye, a software salesman. “It was really a grassroots movement. We set up a table at the local King Soopers and started passing out fliers. First there were two of us, then 10 people, then 50.”
The two-story K-6 charter, eventually designed to serve K-8 students, is in the Meadows neighborhood. In a unique partnership, the Douglas County School District helped Aspen View secure financing for the school. In exchange, Aspen View accepted some of the children who otherwise would attend overflowing neighborhood schools in the high-growth area.
“This school saved two schools in the Meadows from going to four-track,” said Nye.
Four-track is a form of year-round school.
Instead, about 65 percent of Aspen View’s students hail from the Meadows, with another 25-30 percent from Castle Rock.
“I don’t know that we’re different,” Nye said. “We just offer a choice for parents. But we’re still a district school.
“We’re core knowledge with an emphasis on math, technology and language arts. We’re a big believer in culture and core values.”
Students also will be taught Latin, and placed in groupings that allow them to learn according to their abilities.
Another differentiator: The uniforms.
On opening day, girls wore blue plaid skirts and pale blue blouses embroidered with the Aspen View Academy name and logo. Boys wore gray pants with pale blue button-down Aspen View shirts; many also wore blue plaid ties that matched the girls’ skirts.
It’s a different way of dressing not just for most of the students, but their parents as well.
“The uniforms are a new thing,” said parent Karen McConnell, whose oldest son previously attended nearby Clear Sky Elementary. “It’s different. It sounds great, but I guess we’ll see how it goes.”
She was unreservedly excited, however, about the new school.
Clear Sky “was getting crowded with all the new housing,” McConnell said. “I also like the ability-based grouping they offer here.”
Staff members had a similar sense of anticipation.
“I couldn’t sleep last night,” said teacher Traci Waters. "This (school) has been like my dream."
Assistant principal Jeri Bisbee said Aspen View aims to be the best school in the area.
“Everybody’s heart was in this project,” she said. “Folks have moved here from Indiana, Ohio, Illinois (to work). And we have the cream of the crop in terms of our staff. We’re very passionate and very excited.”
Another charter - the second campus of American Academy, nearing completion in Parker - also opens this month on Sept. 23.