New charter school targets at-risk teens

CALDWELL — Imagine a high school that not only graduates at-risk students but also teaches them a skill so they are immediately employable.

It’s coming to Caldwell and will be a first-of-its-kind in Idaho.

Elevate Academy will be a career-technical charter school for middle and high school students. Its mission is to bridge the gap between education and the workforce. It will connect learning to the local job market.

The school plans to open in the fall of 2019.

Creating a dream school

Two veteran educators and Caldwell community members, Matt Strong and Monica White, worked together at Canyon Springs High School in the Caldwell School District for four years. They resigned in 2017 and became Bluum Idaho New School Fellows. The two-year fellowship program allowed Matt and Monica to focus on planning, developing and launching a unique public school in an Idaho community.

“I can honestly say this is above and beyond the original vision we had,” White said. “The opportunity to travel around the country and look at models of excellence in all areas has definitely expanded our thinking of what is possible for students.”

The Idaho Public Charter School Commission voted unanimously to approve the school in June, after hearing opposition from the Caldwell School District.

The two founded Elevate Academy and plan to bring education and industry together in a year-round career-technical school, with the goal of helping students graduate as industry-certified professionals. Students will participate in a career track that will prepare them for local industry or higher education. Partnering with local industry, Elevate Academy seeks to create a pipeline of skilled workers who meet local employers’ needs.

“Students that traditionally struggle with the ‘why’ behind learning will have a direct connection to why they are learning all subjects at Elevate Academy,” White said. “Every child, regardless of their circumstance, deserves an education that fits them.”

Matt Strong and Monica White


The school will include programs in culinary arts, business marketing, criminal justice, firefighting, medical arts, metals manufacturing, welding, woodworking and construction.

Students will study math, English language arts, science and social studies in an integrated approach that will be directly related to the career-technical programs. Students will study the concept in the classroom and apply them in career-technical course work. For example, if a student is in the culinary arts track they will focus on fractions, weights and measure standards.  When a student moves into construction, they will focus on measures and geometric concepts.

The goal is for students to graduate with two industry certifications and be qualified for an entry-level position in the workforce or to continue their education.

“This alone will open doors for opportunity beyond high school,” White said. “It is up to the student do determine their path.”

Elevate Academy

Nearly 150 people including, kids, business owners and Caldwell city leaders gathered Wednesday afternoon for a groundbreaking ceremony.

“This has been a wonderful journey and experience,” Caldwell Mayor Garret Nancolas said. “It’s through dreaming together that anything can happen.”

The building will be 55,000 square feet and located at the corner of Chicago Street and Boise Avenue. Career technical education spaces have been designed by professionals in the areas of culinary, construction, nursing, graphic design, welding and manufacturing. The school will have a fitness center, barbershop, mental health services, individual showers, and a laundry room that is available to students. Classrooms will be designed to extend into the hallways for personalized learning space.

“We chose to build the school in an area that has not had any economic development in years,” White said. “By building Elevate Academy in that area, we hope to help with the revitalization of Caldwell.”

Each grade will have 65-70 students with a total enrollment of 465 by 2021. The school will start with grades 6-10 and will add a grade a year over the next two school years.

The school will operate on a four-day week with an optional fifth day for students to make-up time, receive academic interventions or get ahead on their career technical projects.

Students will be recruited from Caldwell, Middleon, Nampa, Notus and Vallivue. Transportation will be provided to students in the attendance area. The goal is to recruit at-risk students, but anyone can apply. Enrollment will be awarded based on a lottery system.


Attendance area

In addition to securing support from local businesses, White and Strong partnered with the City of Caldwell to acquire land for the project. Part of the land will be used by the City of Caldwell for future community projects.

Funding for the school will rely on state per pupil allocation, federal start-up grants, private grants and donors. In June, the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation awarded Elevate Academy a $1 million grant over three years.

To learn more about how to enroll into Elevate Academy, click here.

Disclaimer: Idaho Education News, Elevate Academy and Bluum are funded by the  J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation. Idaho Education News’ data analyst Randy Schrader sits on the Elevate Academy board.


Andrew Reed

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