In the Fall of this year, a new charter school welcomes students into its halls. After several years of planning and preparation, Cheyenne Classical Academy broke ground on January 8, 2024. The occasion marks the beginning of Wyoming's sixth charter school.

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Cheyenne Classical Academy Opens Doors in Fall of 2024

Charter schools have struggled to take off in Wyoming. Though legislation has allowed the creation of charters since 1995, only five such schools have opened since then -Arapaho Charter, Laramie Montessori, Poder Academy Secondary School, Poder Academy, and Snowy Range Academy. Funding a charter school can prove troublesome, as updated legislation from 2023 requires "costs for improvement, modification, operation, and maintenance of school district facilities utilized by charter schools are subject to negotiation between the charter school and the school district board of trustees."

Dick Morrison, Secretary of the CCA Board of Directors, speaks at the groundbreaking ceremony on January 8, 2024.
Dick Morrison, Secretary of the CCA Board of Directors, speaks at the groundbreaking ceremony on January 8, 2024.

The struggle to fund charter schools is apparent to the Wyoming Department of Education, former WDE Chief of Staff Dickey Shanor noted during a School Facilities committee session in 2023 on the subject that the WDE "[hopes] to see in the future is that the local school district does not have to be a pass-through for that block grant funding, and the other funding, like special education and transportation reimbursements. But as the law stands right now, we don't think that ability exists."

Despite the obstacles, supporters of Cheyenne Classical Academy persevered and are bringing their vision of classical education in Cheyenne to fruition.

The Team: Passion & Experience

The team behind Cheyenne Classical Academy is led by its headmaster, BJ Buchmann, and CCA Board President, Nathan Winters. Both are passionate about helping students find their best selves while preparing them for a future of virtuous living and civic responsibility.

BJ Buchmann, Headmaster

Mr. Buchmann has over 25 years of experience in the educational sphere, from North Dakota to Colorado to Wyoming. He has experience in the administration of both charter and general public schools, where he has served as Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, Executive Director, and Elementary, Middle, and High School Principal. 

Nathan Winters, Board President

Nathan Winters is a Cheyenne native through and through. He has served in the Wyoming House of Representatives, working on committees ranging from economic development and mineral policy to agriculture, public lands, and program auditing. Winters was also the First Baptist Church of Thermopolis pastor for over twelve years.

For more information on members of the CCA Board, click here.

The Mission: Train the Mind; Improve the Heart

"The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts." - C.S. Lewis

Cheyenne Classical Academy carries the rare distinction of being part of the Barney Charter School Initiative School, of which there are less than three dozen in the country. The academy's mission is "to train the minds and improve the hearts of young people through a classical, content-rich education in the liberal arts and sciences with instruction in the principals of moral character and civic virtue in an orderly and disciplined environment that emphasizes virtuous living, traditional learning, and civic responsibility."

To Winters and Buchmann, education is about helping students grow into their best selves. "We want our teachers to be guides," said Nathan Winters. "They plan the path and encourage students while clearing the way ahead." Thus, Cheyenne Classical Academy focuses on forming character and confidence in students as much as it does the foundations of mathematics, reading, and science.

The Curriculum: Time-Tested & Well-Rounded

For proponents of classical education, 'classical' does not equivocate to 'archaic.' Instead, the curriculum focuses on various subjects, including the 'trivium' of grammar, logic, and rhetoric, as well as mathematics, history, the sciences, the fine arts, Latin, and physical education. Classical education systems use, in the words of Buchmann, "a well-rounded and time-tested" approach to education.

"This is how our Founding Fathers were taught," chimed in Winters. "This system of education has been around for hundreds of years." For the Cheyenne Classical Academy's Board President, that is evidence of a system that works.

Prospective students and parents listen at the Cheyenne Classical Academy groundbreaking ceremony. Credit: BJ Buchmann/Cheyenne Classical Academy
Prospective students and parents listen at the Cheyenne Classical Academy groundbreaking ceremony.
Credit: BJ Buchmann/Cheyenne Classical Academy

The curriculum at Cheyenne Classical Academy prioritizes teaching students how to learn, employing methods that encourage critical thinking. According to the CCA website, students will develop skills in logic and evaluation via avenues like the Socratic method, Singapore Math (which consistently produces top scores in international math testing,) objective assessment of the world and U.S. culture and history, philosophy, and more. Classical education schools typically argue that Public Schools teach students' what to learn' instead of 'how to learn.'

That's not to say there are no similarities between the Public Schools and Public Charter Schools. It's important to note that though the subjects covered in classical education vary from those covered in Wyoming's public schools, they are still required to follow Wyoming Department of Education standards. Students still take state tests, qualify for the Hathaway Scholarship, and receive state funding like any other public school. And, like public schools, students at Cheyenne Classical Academy will engage in music, arts, and sports.

Hillsdale College

Founded in 1844, Hillsdale College and its alums have played significant roles in American history. The college was the first to prohibit discrimination based on race, religion, or sex in its charter and was an active proponent of the abolition of slavery. The college's firm stance on patriotism and slavery undoubtedly spurred 400 students to join the Union ranks during the Civil War. Among its alums and faculty are Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (visiting faculty), Andre Holmes (Denver Broncos), Erik Prince (Navy Seal, founder of Blackwater), and Sir Martin Gilbert (historian and writer of Winston Churchill's biography.)

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Speaks At Hillsdale College In Michigan
The iconic clocktower at Hillsdale College. Credit: Getty Images

Though Hillsdale College is a notably conservative and Christian college, Board President Nathan Winters vehemently affirmed in a previous interview with Wyoming Truth that the curriculum taught at Hillsdale Charter Schools carries no political or religious agenda. "We're not trying to push a narrative. We're trying to produce the right kind of information and instill into young people the ability to think critically about everything," said Winters.

Classical Education & Charter School FAQ

How are students selected for Cheyenne Classical Academy? Students are randomly selected from the pool of applicants. If a student's sibling wants to attend the school in the following years, they are automatically grandfathered into the system.

What grades are taught at CCA? Cheyenne Classical Academy will begin its advent school year with grades K-4, expanding a grade each following year. CCA will eventually offer education for grades K-12 as the school buildings and class rooms expand.

Where is Cheyenne Classical Academy? CCA is located at 5200 Ridge Road. The complex is currently under construction and will soon feature several additional buildings to accommodate a gym and more classrooms.

Can anyone apply to Charter Schools in Cheyenne? Yes, all Charter Schools in Cheyenne must accept applications from the general public. You do not have to be in the school's neighborhood to attend.

Will Classical Academy offer tutoring/IEP for students who need additional support? Like all public schools, "CCA will have a teacher as well as systems of support for students who have a current or existing Individual Education Plan," assures headmaster BJ Buchmann. "Also, students who do not have a current IEP will be supported and provided with additional instruction during the day in the classroom setting."

Do Charter Schools cherry-pick students? No, by law, charter schools have to randomly select their students when there's limited space available.

Will CCA have sports? Cheyenne Classical Academy will have a physical fitness program that includes sports, and will eventually join community team sports leagues.

Are uniforms required? Yes, Cheyenne Classical Academy will have a uniform policy.

What will school-day hours be? Buchmann estimates school hours to fall around 7:40 to 8 a.m. and end around 3 p.m.

For more information on Cheyenne Classical Academy, visit the school's website by clicking here.

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Gallery Credit: Dave Fields

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