Q&A with UMA
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 starts 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! 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. You can see dates for upcoming Information Sessions and RSVP here. We also offer students the opportunity to schedule a half-day shadow experience at UMA.
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.
For 2018-19, we are planning for three sections per middle school grade 6-8, two sections for each of grades 9 and 10, and 1 section of grade 11.
We are growing our high school from the bottom up, so we will be adding grade 12 in 2019.
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.
All UMA students have a 30 minute Wellness/Advisory period before or after lunch. Depending on the day, Wellness may take place inside or outside, and with or without a student’s Advisory group. The UMA Wellness program attends to students’ physical, mental, and social-emotional health. 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.
In addition, UMA’s commitment to experiential learning often takes students outside of the traditional classroom and school – everywhere from our own neighborhood and the Mississippi River to downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul.
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 Basketball, Fencing Club, Gaming Club, Running Club, Theater Club, Funk Band, Tinkerers Club, Otters Newspaper, 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.
The school is led by two co-directors, Arslan Aziz and Amy Elverum. In addition to operational and strategic duties, Arslan supervises the school’s general education program and teachers and Amy supervises the school’s special education program and teachers.