About UMA

Upper Mississippi Academy is a public charter school providing high-quality education for students in grades 6-12. UMA’s experiential, collaborative environment encourages dynamic teaching and learning through an interdisciplinary and multi-dimensional instructional approach.

At UMA, we understand that learning is a distinct, personal process for every student. As such, we encourage individual learning styles and natural abilities while moving toward academic and lifelong goals.

Our Mission

Upper Mississippi Academy is a collaborative community engaging lifelong learners in active, authentic experiences.

Our Values

These values guide our program design, inform academic experiences and provide significant and meaningful opportunities for collaboration with peers, teachers, and community experts in all content areas.

Together, we are more than the sum of our parts.

We achieve more by working together. Our Students, Parents, Faculty, Administration and Board nurture a collaborative environment to remove artificial barriers between subjects, grade levels, and our school and community. This collaborative spirit allows us to do more with less, develops important 21st-century skills, and produces a welcoming environment for all.

We learn best when exercising our creativity.

We recognize that all students are inherently unique and creative. Our focus on active learning and design-thinking requires our students and teachers to innovate throughout the learning process.

We engage our communities.

We are a presence in our dynamic community. Our students see academic content in real-world context, network with neighbors and local business leaders, exhibit their creations, and shape their current and future role in a global society.

We celebrate the freedom to discover.

We view failure, not as an end itself, but as a way to nurture learning, innovative thinking, and persistence.


Framed by the outcomes and values of UMA’s FOUR EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING PATHWAYS — Design & Engineering, Edible Schoolyard, Essential Ingredients, and River to River — our classes utilize a “teacher as designer approach” to promote student achievement, creativity, and academic growth. We work with students to be involved with and construct their own learning through interdisciplinary instruction and multi-dimensional learning experiences.

Courses are rigorous, relevant, and relational, and curriculum is built around the elements of experiential learning. Students engage in projects that:

  • are interdisciplinary, self-directed and long-term;
  • are connected to the local community and involve community experts;
  • provide opportunities for experimentation, failure, reflection, and improvement;
  • ask students to seek, create, and transform knowledge;
  • allow final products with many potential forms;
  • document the learning process; and
  • are presented to the community by the student(s).

Want to learn more? There is really no better way to understand academic life at UMA than to see it in action. Students as Designers page highlights some of our students’ work.


Our middle school features the best of rigorous curriculum plus fun and activity. With everything from building CO2 cars in sixth-grade science to exploring identities in an eighth-grade exhibition, we build academic skills through hands-on, collaborative learning.

Learn more here about specific classes and content offered in the middle school.

High School: Grades 9-12

High school teachers at UMA understand the importance of these four years both academically and socially. Teachers collaborate across subjects to break down traditional silos, and students learn to work together and take charge of designing and discovering their own learning.

Learn more here about specific content and course offerings in the high school.

Meeting Each Student's Academic Needs

UMA utilizes a “push-in model” for our students needing extra support. While we do have a resource room available, we strive to keep students in the classroom as often as possible. Our special education and general education teachers work closely to appropriately modify curriculum or behavior plans to ensure each students’ success.

We are excited to have a marvelous team to support students in the Special Education department at UMA. For more information about our Special Education staff, please see their biographies here.

Special education services are provided for all qualified students. Our staff is also equipped to evaluate students on an as-needed basis should concerns about academic and/or behavioral progress arise.

Special Education Advisory Council (SEAC) will meet once a year. Exact dates will be posted before each meeting.

Total Special Education System (TSES) Plan

The Total Special Education System (TSES) Plan for Upper Mississippi Academy, District 4210, has been created in accordance with Minnesota Rule 3525.1100. This plan, which can be downloaded below, also includes an assurance for compliance with the federal requirements pertaining to districts’ special education responsibilities found in United States Code, title 20, chapter 33, sections 1400 et seq., and Code of Federal Regulations, title 34, part 300. This document is a companion to the Application for Special Education Funds – Statement of Assurances (ED-01350-29).

Partners: Linking classroom and community

UMA’s partnerships with companies, organizations, and community groups afford us opportunities to engage with and learn from our community.

Some of our current partners include:

  • Fort Snelling State Park
  • Jeffers Foundation
  • Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom
  • Mortenson Family Foundation
  • National Park Service
  • Ramsey County
  • Tangletown Gardens
  • Wilderness Inquiry

We are always looking for new partners who can support and sustain our mission, and to whom we can be an asset as well. If you are interested in becoming a partner of UMA, please send us a message.

There’s no doubt about it, UMA would not be as special without dedicated volunteers!

We welcome parents, relatives, friends, and community supporters into our learning community to enrich the educational experiences of our students.

We look for volunteers to help with:

  • classroom activities and projects
  • field trip chaperones
  • school-wide events
  • fundraisers
  • computer maintenance

Any time you can give — large or small — is greatly appreciated. Volunteering is also a great way to meet other parents and be part of creating rich and meaningful experiences for our students!

If you are interested, please speak with your child’s teachers directly, or send an email to our PTO and we will connect you with the appropriate people.

All volunteers having student contact must submit and pass a background check before volunteering. Please print and fill out the Volunteer Background Check Form and return it to the office with an optional $8 check to cover the cost of your background check.

Thank you for your interest in volunteering at UMA!

Frequently Asked Questions

At UMA, we love questions! Below are some of the ones we get asked most often, but if you don’t find your answer here please send us a note and we’ll make sure you get the information you need.

In September 2019, UMA started a new chapter in downtown St Paul at 19 E. Exchange Street.  Formerly known as the McNally Smith College of Music, the site has been renovated and remodeled by Mortenson Construction, providing two additional classrooms, small office space for support services and wider hallways and stairwells.  Public transportation is right across the street and nearby neighbors are the History Theater, Fitzgerald Theater and Minnesota Public Radio. At the start of the 2015-16 school year, UMA was located in the St. Francis school building in the West Seventh neighborhood of St. Paul.  Cramped for space with our growing enrollment, UMA sought a new location with room for expansion and moved out in June 2019. Prior to being located in St. Paul, UMA held classes at Fort Snelling. The UMA Board of Directors site selection committee continues to stay in contact with Fort Snelling and also looks at alternative locations in order to support UMA's growth plans.
Yes! When it is safe to do so, we welcome families to contact us and make plans to visit UMA and see our experiential learning classrooms firsthand. We host multiple Prospective Family Information Sessions which include a tour.
Yes, UMA provides school bus transportation free of charge to middle school students and provides Metro Transit passes for high school students. School bus service takes the form of hub/central stops and includes parts of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Some UMA families from other areas carpool to/from school or to/from transportation hubs. Transportation routes for future school years will be based on the addresses of enrolled students and the transportation revenue UMA receives from the state. We will make this information known to the community each year as soon as it is available.
Yes, UMA is a public charter school. UMA serves as its own district, Public School District #4210, within the Minnesota Department of Education.
No, UMA is a public school and is open to all who are interested in attending the grades that are offered.
As a public school, UMA receives funding from the state on a per pupil basis for personnel, operations, and transportation. Unfortunately, charter schools receive a great deal less per student on a local level than conventional public schools. To help fill the gap between state funds and the cost of providing a high quality program, UMA's PTO initiates fundraisers throughout the school year. Additionally, UMA has established an Advancement Office to assist in fundraising, grant writing, and partnerships.
UMA bases enrollment on sections for each grade. We currently plan for 3 sections of each grade in the middle school (6–8) and 2 sections of each grade in the high school (9–12). Each section is approximately 25 students.  In the 2019-2020 school year we had 325 students enrolled.  
Our goal is to have 25 students per classroom, although sometimes classes are smaller and sometimes they are slightly larger. We believe these class sizes support our overall educational philosophy and core beliefs as well as facilitate close relationships between students, teachers, and peers.
UMA has an enclosed grassy courtyard where students can participate in outdoor Wellness class activities as well as eat lunch when weather permits. In addition, UMA's commitment to experiential learning often takes students outside of the traditional classroom and school – everywhere from our urban neighborhood to the Mississippi River and area parks.  
UMA enrolls students with a variety of learning styles and abilities. However, it is our similarities — including thriving in an experiential learning environment — that bind us together as a community. Through our unique approach of interactive and engaging learning, UMA meets each student where they are and challenges them to not only achieve success but push themselves past their own perceived limits. We provide support to students with IEPs and 504s and have a full-time social worker to attend to student and family social-emotional wellness. Our teachers take pride in knowing our students in a way that allows them to tailor and differentiate instructional methods and materials to meet each student's unique needs. During junior and senior years, UMA students are encouraged to engage in Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO), which allows high schoolers to earn both high school and college credit at the same time.
UMA staff and parent volunteers have organized various activities and clubs that take place after school. These are based each year on student interest. Some of the extracurricular activities that have taken place in the past are MS Basketball, Gaming Club, Running Club, Theater Club, Funk Band, Hiking Club, Yearbook, and History Day. Have an idea? Let's make it happen!
No, UMA students do not wear a school uniform. However, we do have an expectation that students will follow the school dress code policy and bring appropriate clothing for all weather in order to participate in experiential learning opportunities and outdoor activities.
Yes, definitely! We have a variety of types of volunteer opportunities available for either single or recurring times.
The school is led by Executive Director Amy Erickson. Erickson has over 30 years of experience in education
UMA is authorized by Innovative Quality Schools (IQS), which is a single-purpose authorizer.

Policies Ensure Safety for All

In order to provide the best possible experience for our students and keep them and our community safe while under our supervision, UMA has created and instituted a set of policies and procedures. All students, teachers, families and involved parties should review, understand and comply with these policies.

UMA maintains an updated Policy & Procedure binder in the Main Office.

Quick Facts

School Hours
9:20 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Office Hours
Monday – Friday (including student release days)
8:40 a.m. – 4:40 p.m.

19 East Exchange St.
St Paul, MN 55101

Innovative Quality Schools (IQS)

IQS is a “Single Purpose Authorizer” meaning that, unlike other authorizers, their only mission is to authorize charter schools. Like UMA, IQS is a non-profit corporation with 501 (c)(3) status. IQS was approved by Commissioner Alice Seagren as an authorizer on December 1, 2010 and currently authorizes more than 20 schools.

By the Numbers
Average Class Size: 25
Teacher to Student Ratio: 14:1
Estimated Enrollment 2021/2022: 260

Daily Schedule
UMA uses a block schedule with alternating days (A/B).

Each day consists of four 86-minute blocks. Middle school math classes are 43 minutes and meet every day. All students have advisory for 30 minutes each day, and lunches are 45 minutes.

School Contacts

Amy Erickson
Executive Director