This feature is part of the National Alliance's 2022 Back to School Month Campaign.
Rio Grande Academy of Fine Arts (RioGAFA) is a new public charter school opening in Albuquerque, New Mexico this fall. It will start by opening to students in K, 1st, and 6th grades, and plans to add new grade levels on an interest-basis each year until ultimately becoming a fully K-12 school.
RioGAFA’s mission is to offer an arts education—the only public arts school in their side of town—along with high-achieving academics. It’s the type of school that Jordan Franco and Michele Platis, the school’s co-founders and co-directors, wished they had the opportunity to attend.
"That is really something in my core that drives me to create this space – a high performing school that incorporates the arts but that is free for families. Because my family needed that so desperately.” - Jordan Franco, co-founder and co-director of Rio Grande Academy of Fine Arts
At RioGAFA, arts education will be integrated in the curriculum to improve student engagement in the content being taught. By approaching traditional school subjects differently, Jordan and Michele will cater to a wide array of learning styles and ultimately improve academic outcomes. Students will graduate from RioGAFA as strong creative problem solvers, ready to apply their out-of-the-box thinking to any career path they choose.
“Students get to learn their math through music or dance, and they’ll learn science through dance or theatre. Students are engaged in that learning, and I think that’s really missing from a lot of classrooms right now.” - Michele Platis, co-founder and co-director of Rio Grande Academy of Fine Arts
Beyond benefiting students through innovative programming, Jordan and Michele are set on cultivating a community-based school culture. They hope to frequently bring parents in to teach classes, so that students are taught by individuals directly connected to them and their peers. They also plan on taking a “learning together” approach to professional development, where they will sit down with teachers and collaborate on problem solving strategies.
“The first day of school is going to be fun. And I think that’s something that Michele and I have really strived to build, for this culture, is fun. So many students are missing that fun piece of school.” - Jordan Franco
RioGAFA will be a place where students empower one another, learn about their community, and approach life through a creative lens. Jordan and Michele can’t wait to welcome the founding class of students, teachers, and parents, and are excited to see all that they accomplish.
“A learning environment that brings all those pieces together is what guides us, what inspires us, and what motivates us to change education. We believe deeply that this is an answer. I say an answer because there are probably multiple answers and that’s what school choice is all about.” - Michele Platis
Best of luck to RioGAFA and the leaders, educators, families, and students in their community!
Sophia Nehme is a summer fellow with the National Alliance for Public Charter School. She is a current sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania studying Psychology and Urban Education. One day she hopes to work in the education sector.