Leman Academy of Excellence, a charter school that opened in Marana last year, is expanding to Sierra Vista and Mesa.
Leman Academy is a tuition-free, “classical” charter school, which uses curricula designed around history, according to Kevin Leman, the founder and chairman of the school’s board. The founder is also an author and psychologist.
The Marana location serves kindergarten through sixth grade. Next school year, the school will enroll seventh-graders and eighth grade the year after.
The two new campuses will open for the 2016-17 school year, he said. The Sierra Vista location will serve kindergarten through sixth grade and the Mesa campus most likely kindergarten through seventh.
“Doors will be open and we will meet them on the curb,” he said.
The opportunity to branch out came by chance, as buildings became available in Mesa and Sierra Vista, though the school has already had plans to expand into other areas, Leman said. A team is working on possibilities in Colorado as well.
“We’re the new guy on the block and we’re just trying to say this school is special,” he said. “It’s unique.”
The Sierra Vista location will occupy the former Imagine Sierra Vista school. The Mesa campus would be located in the space formerly occupied by Hillcrest Academy.
The Sierra Vista and Mesa schools have already begun attracting students, Leman said. Nearly 120 students are enrolled at the Sierra Vista location.
The goal is to expand the Mesa school to serve 1,500 students and about 400 in Sierra Vista, he said.
Eventually, Leman said he wants to “put these schools all across the United States of America.
“And I think I either have delusions of grandeur or I’m naive enough to think that we could make a dent in American education today,” he said.
When Leman Academy opened in Marana, the Marana Unified School District lost about 150 students to the charter school, according to a previous interview with the district’s superintendent.
That put the district in contingency mode, which triggered a marketing campaign that highlighted the benefits of district schools.
Sierra Vista Unified School District isn’t as concerned, Terri Romo, that district’s assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said.
“You don’t know anything until next year starts,” she said.
So far, there is no indication that Sierra Vista Unified would lose a large number of students to the new charter school. However, the district has invested in additional advertising for its kindergarten program, though Romo said it’s not specifically a reaction to Leman Academy’s opening in the area.
The Arizona Charter Schools Association welcomed Leman Academy’s expansion.
“We are thrilled that they are expanding and serving more students,” said Eileen Sigmund, president and CEO of the association. “They started out and opened their doors right from day one. They’re showing results that clearly allow the school to expand.”