Northeast Tarrant

Students build futures at Keller Center for Advanced Learning

Katie Pennington, 17, demonstrates grooming techniques on her dog Jasper at the dedication of the Keller Center for Advanced Learning April 18.
Katie Pennington, 17, demonstrates grooming techniques on her dog Jasper at the dedication of the Keller Center for Advanced Learning April 18. Star-Telegram

Surrounded by cars on lifts in a spacious new auto shop on the back side of the property where fifth- and sixth-grade students used to play at recess, Jared Rowntree was enthusiastic in his praise of the new Keller Center for Advanced Learning, or KCAL for short.

“It’s great. It’s absolutely phenomenal,” Rowntree, a 17-year-old junior at Keller High School, said as he paused while giving a tour to a friend.

“I plan on doing this once I get out of school,” he said. “It really helped me figure out where I want to go in life and showed me how I can get a job right away.”

Rowntree was one of several hundred people who attended the dedication of KCAL April 18. After listening to speeches from district, city, state and business dignitaries, red-coated students proudly showed visitors around the new campus, which last year served as South Keller Intermediate School.

Officials around the $37.8 million project funded by the November 2014 bond said it was one of the most ambitious and challenging to date because much of the construction happened while students were going to school and because of the special features and equipment to support more than a dozen programs, from automotive technology and cosmetology to veterinary science and culinary arts.

About half of the building has been in use this year while construction and equipping of the remainder of the facility was completed. Some 1,100 high school students are taking classes there this spring, with about 2,500 expected next year at the completed campus.

This year at KCAL, students attend advanced classes in agriculture and veterinary science, animation and graphic arts, automotive technology, architecture and construction, audio-video arts, cosmetology and commercial photography. Next year, courses will be added in engineering, forensic sciences, law enforcement, culinary arts, health science and computer/internet technology.

Superintendent Randy Reid, who will retire this summer after 35 years in education, said he would remember the establishment of the state-of-the-art CTE center as “one of the proudest moments in my career to see it come to fruition.”

Trustee Cindy Lotton, who was a counselor at Fossil Ridge High School before her election to the board in 2004, said, “This is the pinnacle for me. Starting as a high school counselor, I saw so many kids not enjoying school because it wasn’t relevant to them.

“This is my dream.”

In an upstairs veterinary lab, Katie Pennington, 17, was demonstrating her grooming techniques on her miniature schnauzer Jasper.

The Keller High junior will have several classes at KCAL next year as she gathers as much practical experience as she can on her goal to become an equine vet.

“I’m really jealous of all the freshmen coming in because they’ll be able to do even more,” she said.