Mackintosh Academy helps ‘gifted’ be global
Created to meet the special needs of gifted children while preparing them to thrive in a “rapidly globalizing world,” the campus in Boulder is an offshoot of the Mackintosh Academy in Littleton — Colorado’s oldest private school for gifted children.
Mackintosh is geared toward students who score within the top 5 percent in terms of IQ. The school’s curriculum includes science, math, reading, writing, social studies and humanities, Spanish, visual and performing arts, and physical education. The school focuses on inquiry-based learning that encourages students to explore their own questions and interests within a topic, letting them become partners in the education experience.
Children are able to learn at their own pace, which allows the school to accommodate a range of gifted students, including the “highly, exceptionally or profoundly gifted,” who score in the very highest percentiles, as well as what Mackintosh calls the “twice exceptional” — students who are gifted but have a learning disability.
Both campuses are also accredited International Baccalaureate World Schools, a distinction that reflects administrators’ commitment to instilling in students a respect for and curiosity about global cultures and world issues.
Now, only a year after opening, Mackintosh Academy is already undergoing some big changes.
The first is newly appointed head of school Eric Robertson, who joined the Mackintosh faculty in 2011. During the 2011-12 school year, Robertson taught second grade at Mackintosh, and he accepted the head of school post this May.
Robertson said he was drawn to Mackintosh because of the way the school approaches teaching gifted children, focusing on students’ social and emotional growth as well as on academic performance.
“We push strong academics, but we’re really trying to grow young people and global citizens, not just students,” Robertson said.
Another major development for the school is the purchase of its building and land. In January, Mackintosh bought the 23-acre site at 6717 South Boulder Road, which it had been renting during its first year of operation.
Since purchasing the land, Mackintosh has built a ropes course for team-building exercises, created a pumpkin patch for students to enjoy in the fall, and installed an outdoor classroom.
“It’s just a beautiful space in which to learn,” Robertson said.
Robertson said that the money for the purchase came primarily from major donations, but that the rest of the school’s operating budget is based on tuition fees. However, Mackintosh, which is a tax-exempt 501 c (3) nonprofit organization with no religious affiliation, does accept charitable donations for special purchases and to fund its financial aid programs.
Tuition at the Boulder campus is $15,655 per year for prekindergarten through fifth grade and $16,110 for sixth through eighth grades. The school offers several full and partial need-based scholarships, and Robertson said that a little more than 10 percent of the students at the campus in Boulder have some form of financial aid for the 2012-13 school year.
“Long term, our development committee is working to find funds for more scholarships,” Robertson said. “We want our students to be at a place where they can thrive, regardless of how much their parents make.”
The campus in Boulder has approximately 100 gifted children in grades K-8 enrolled for the fall, up from about 80 students at the end of the last school year.
That rising enrollment is indicative of why Mackintosh decided to open a campus in Boulder. After the Rocky Mountain School for the Gifted closed in 2009 — and the Boulder Valley School District denied an application to create a charter school for gifted children that December — administrators at Mackintosh’s campus in Littleton recognized that, despite interest from parents in gifted education options, Boulder’s more than 5,000 gifted students were being underserved. In fact, five Boulder families were driving their children more than 80 miles each day to attend school in Littleton.
Even with increased enrollment, Mackintosh only admits a fraction of Boulder’s gifted students. Right now capacity is capped (per Boulder County regulations) at around 120 students. Total capacity for the building is 155, but Mackintosh currently rents space to Hillside School, which provides specialized instruction for children with learning disabilities such as dyslexia.
But that doesn’t mean that Robertson and the rest of the faculty aren’t dedicated to helping gifted students outside of Mackintosh.
“We collaborate with other schools in the area, and our goal is always to figure out how to get this child to the school that’s right for them, whether that’s here or another private school or within the BVSD,” Robertson said. “When you see a child in the right school, it’s a great feeling.”
Robertson believes that the work they’re doing at Mackintosh is also an opportunity to help gifted children on a larger scale.
“At a time when everyone is looking for the Holy Grail in terms of best educational practices, the literature surrounding serving gifted students advises us to be open-minded and look at each student as an individual,” Robertson explained.
“We’ll always be a small school, but we can help push the dialogue about giftedness further, so it can help children across the country.”
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