A Brief History of Desert Academy
Desert Academy was founded in 1994 by a small group of concerned parents who came together to develop an alternative independent school serving 7th through 12th grade students. At the time, the choices outside of the public school domain in Santa Fe were quite limited. Being an independent school enabled the founders to implement a philosophy and curriculum geared toward creating successful outcomes for all students. This group of visionaries understood that providing the right environment would allow students to thrive without the typical educational constrictions inherent in public education. They knew that creating a nurturing community with deep respect for the individual would offer their children what they had been missing in Santa Fe. They hired a faculty who designed the curriculum from the ground up – and gave them permission to be truly innovative. They displayed complete trust in the leaders and future leaders of their school.
The school was first located in Lamy, a small community about 15 miles south of Santa Fe. About 30 students took the train from downtown Santa Fe to school in Lamy. By the following year, the space in Lamy was too small, and the school moved to Sunrise Springs, a resort about five miles south of Santa Fe. The school grew to 65 students in the 1995 – 1996 year, and by the year 2000, to 120 students. The original administration remained intact from 1994 to 2001.
In 2001, the school moved once again – to Camino Alire, in the city of Santa Fe, where we spent 11 years. During those years, the school earned a reputation for academic excellence and a nurturing, inclusive culture. The core values of attending to all input and concerns from within our community and of trust in the school’s administrative leaders have remained intact and enabled the school to thrive. As our enrollment has grown, we have moved one final time – to our “forever” campus, 26 acres on the historic Old Santa Fe Trail. We look forward to enhancing our facilities by adding a theater, gym, track and field, and a new great room within the next few years.
In 2008, Desert Academy became the first high school in New Mexico to be authorized as an International Baccalaureate World School – and to this day, we remain the only one to be certified to provide IB curriculum at both the Middle Years Program (grades 6 – 10) and the Diploma Program (grades 11 – 12) levels. 90% of our graduates go on to four-year colleges, and at present, 41% of our population receives some form of tuition assistance, which helps us maintain a high level of diversity. Desert Academy began offering sixth grade instruction in 2013. At present, we are a school of 200 students, including international students from China, Senegal, Thailand, and Germany. We offer Latin, French, Spanish, and Mandarin Chinese. Our students travel to Arizona, Colorado, Texas and beyond, with our athletic and speech and debate teams and abroad with their language teachers. We are truly a “world school.”