Charter school in far north Fort Worth to open in August

02/28/2014 1:55 PM

02/28/2014 2:57 PM

A charter school under construction in far north Fort Worth has drawn a lot of interest from residents in the Keller and Northwest districts.

The International Leadership of Texas-Keller Charter School will open in August with almost 1,300 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. School officials will hold a lottery Saturday afternoon to whittle down enrollment from more than 3,000 applications. The 92,000-square-foot building will sit on 20 acres on Heritage Trace Parkway just west of Tehama Ridge Parkway.

“We live in this neighborhood, and location means a lot to us,” said Brock Paulk, a Northwest district resident who signed his son up as an incoming kindergartner. “We’re also excited about the idea that our child would be surrounded by other students from families who are highly motivated to learn.”

The charter school has an international focus. Students at all levels learn English, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese.

The International Leadership of Texas charter group already has campuses in Arlington and Garland.

But “this area was wide open to a school where parents can have a choice,” Pete Chapasko, principal at ILT-Keller, said at a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday.

According to the group’s charter, approved by the Texas Education Agency in November 2012, the school can have 144 students per grade. The Arlington and Keller K-8 campuses will be among the largest charter schools in Tarrant County.

As of 2012-13, only three charter schools were operating in Northeast Tarrant County: Harmony Science Academy of Euless, with about 1,100 students, Westlake Academy, with just under 700, and Treetops School International in Euless with about 350.

Clemencia Prewitt of Keller said she submitted applications for her 8-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son because of the focus on languages.

“I’m a native Spanish speaker, so I wanted them to keep on going with both English and Spanish. And adding Chinese is great. I also like the leadership aspect of the program,” Prewitt said.

Laura Carrasco, chief academic officer for the charter group, said the school is special because of dual-language immersion. Kindergartners and first-graders will have lessons divided equally between English and Spanish.

Older students will be introduced to Spanish more gradually. All students will have daily lessons in Mandarin.

“We did quite a bit of research, and the one thing that stood out was that the Keller area doesn’t have anything like IL Texas,” Carrasco said.

Besides the trilingual program, the school focuses on community service, physical fitness, international relations and college readiness. To fit in everything, the school day will run an hour longer — from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. — than at area public schools.

Eddie Conger, the International Leadership of Texas superintendent, said he wants the school to prepare students for success in a global environment. “We need to be more strategic in our thinking in education,” Conger said.

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