Apple Valley charter school to focus on fitness, intellect, teamwork

FIT Academy aims to bring it all together at new charter school

FIT Academy charter school executive director Claud Allaire meets with the new school’s administrators during a recent session at the Apple Valley site. Photo by Tad Johnson

At a new kindergarten through eighth-grade charter school slated to open in fall 2017 in Apple Valley, “fit” has two meanings.

At FIT Academy, it not only means the goal of staying fit, it is also an acronym for fitness, intellect and teamwork.

The new school, which is located on the former site of Paideia Academy charter school at 7200 147th St. W., aims to integrate all three into its educational experience as it imparts the value of health and fitness throughout life.

“I see it as an ideal location,” executive director Claud Allaire said. “It is in the hub of everything. It is a diverse community.”

The school will open its first year with two sections of kindergarten and one class each for first through eighth grades.

Class size limits are 23 in kindergarten, 25 in first grade, 26 in second and third, and 28 in fourth through eighth, with the goal to have 200 students by the time classes start this fall.

The school has the capacity to grow by another five classrooms.

When the newspaper visited the school in June, Allaire said it could have opened July 1 if it had to, but there’s still some finer points to the building remodel yet to go.

The major work to transform the school started in March as all new paint and floor coverings were installed. Most of the major work was completed by May.

The results are bright open spaces, large kindergarten classrooms, a fitness area and other features.

Allaire said communication with new families with regard to school operations will be the bulk of work done until Sept. 5.

He said most families who have chosen to enroll their children at FIT say they were drawn to it for the fitness aspect and the small school community.

School officials say its smaller school community will allows teachers more flexibility in adapting to student needs and help it integrate its themes of health, fitness, and teamwork.

“I like the small school community,” said Allaire, who has spent the last 27 years as a teacher and administrator in traditional public schools as well as several charter schools. “You get to know people better. There are a lot of educational advantages when you get to know people better.”

Based on the Association for Supervision Curriculum Development’s Whole Child Model, the school will integrate literacy and math in all academic areas while promoting inquiry-based learning and minimizing standardized testing.

Academics gets a sports twist as each day will have a 30-minute All-Star Training when students will either receive academic intervention or enrichment.

The school will not have music education in its first year, but is partnering with the nearby MacPhail Center for Music to offer it as an after-school activity.

It is one of several partnerships the school has forged with organizations such as the YMCA, Sylvan Learning Center, Mathnasium and more.

In addition to its daily offering of a 30-minute physical education time, the school will have a weekly field day when students will be bused to a nearby sports facility to have 90 minutes filled with activities and sports.

Research has shown that physical activity enhances learning, and Allaire said this increase in physical activity will have a positive impact on other academic areas.

Organizers say the physical activity time is more representative of the 60 minutes per day that is recommended by the U.S. Department of Health.

Active movement is also encouraged in class as teachers will take breaks during class to do stretching or other activities.

Allaire said the school has hired teachers who have a strong record of teaching effectiveness and who buy into the school’s mission.

That mission and the concept for FIT Academy is more than 2 years old. In 2015, Allaire worked with the national charter school group Athlos Leadership Academy to establish a charter school focused on “academics, athletics and character” in Dakota County.

But the end product didn’t materialize as FIT Academy organizers continued forward with the concept, and the former Paideia site opened up with that school announcing it would close in February 2017.

As a charter school, FIT Academy is subject to state laws and rules applicable to public schools. FIT Academy is governed by a local school board and reports to its authorizer, Volunteers of America.

Board meetings are scheduled for 5 p.m. the second Wednesday of every month at the school.

Summer office hours are Mondays and Wednesdays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Fridays 9 a.m. to noon.

Open houses at the school are 6:30 p.m. July 13 and 25 and Aug. 8 and 17.

More information is at http://fitacademymn.org.

Contact Tad Johnson at [email protected] or at twitter.com/editorTJ.

  • Christine

    I’ve been attending the board meetings at FIT, and I’m very impressed with the leaders there. They have a lot of combined educational experience as well as business skills, and are very passionate about putting together this combination of goals and features for a school. We attended Paideia in that building until it closed, and we are excited to be part of another small school community. There are pros and cons to small vs. large, charter vs. district, uniforms vs. not, and a school like this isn’t the right choice for everyone. But we really like the emphasis on health and exercise, the earlier school day (than what our area has), the after-school activities, and the close community that we have seen form at similar schools and want to help form at FIT.