Arlington council clears way for charter school

Posted Wednesday, Apr. 17, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Developers of an open-enrollment charter school received the City Council's approval Tuesday to go ahead with plans to build a campus in southwest Arlington.

The 9-0 vote changes the zoning on the undeveloped 40 acres near Bowen and Bardin roads.

The campus will be called International Leadership of Texas and is expected to serve more than 1,200 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

According to city staff reports, plans include an 81,000-square-foot school building, athletic fields and parking for 181 cars. Before the vote, several residents shared their concerns about traffic congestion.

School administrators have proposed staggering start and end times for various grades to mitigate the problem.

All students will learn to read and speak English, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. It will be an independent, open-enrollment public charter school that children can attend with no tuition.

The English-Spanish-Mandarin curriculum model is the inspiration of Eddie Conger, a Dallas school district administrator and principal who left his post as an executive director last year to pursue the International Leadership of Texas project. He will be the schools' superintendent. A campus is under construction in Garland.

Conger's success with a Chinese-language curriculum at Dallas' low-income Jefferson High School convinced him that a more intensive program could flourish at a charter school. Six hundred students took Mandarin classes once a day at Jefferson High.

"After spending 20 years in the Marine Corps traveling around the world, I have seen how critical it is for our children to communicate," he said by phone Monday. "My own children attended Department of Defense schools when I was stationed in Japan and learned to read and write Japanese in just three years."

It has as much to do with commerce as culture, Conger said.

"With China being the No. 2 economy in the world and having about $1.2 trillion to invest overseas, I want our kids to be in the best position to be effective in doing business there and persuading their investors to come to Texas," Conger said.

The school will have a Chinese guest-teacher program, and families can host Chinese high school students. Arlington students will have opportunities to visit and study in China.

Besides language immersion, the school will stress fitness, nutrition and character development.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657

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