New charter school welcomes community

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Students at the new Horizon Science Academy Belmont led a group of community members around their building earlier this month, showing off Austin’s newest charter school.

Among the visitors was Ald. Emma Mitts (37th), who joined the group halfway through the tour and has a grandson at Horizon.

Two student ambassadors took the guests through the halls and inside classrooms of the K-5th grade school.

Students in music class performed a song for the tour, while the technology class – stocked with new computers – continued its work. The ambassadors explained student projects on the walls, like the “Life Cycle of a Pumpkin.”

The school opened inside the former Banner Academy West High School in August after undergoing a $100,000 renovation, said Principal Serdar Kartal. Updates included new paint, furniture, lighting and electrical work, he said.

Students won’t be staying long, as the school’s permanent home will be built near the corner of Grand and LeClaire avenues.

“We didn’t want to wait,” Kartal said.

The school is managed by Concept Schools, a non-profit consulting firm based in Chicago. This is one of two Horizon schools in Chicago; the other is located in McKinley Park and opened last month.

Kartal said the new building will have a 700-student capacity, with a plan to expand to a K-12 building.

The Banner building holds 288 students right now, all kindergarten to fifth grades, Kartal said. Next year’s program will be K-8 and has about 432 students enrolled so far.

Ald. Mitts said she’s all for the new school because its STEM, science-based system is refined – something she said CPS schools are still catching up to.

When dozens of elementary schools were closed this past spring, CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett announced that 10 “welcoming” schools will have the STEM program, according to a press release.

Ald. Mitts recently faced criticism for her support of a proposed charter school across the street from Charles Allen Prosser Career Academy, 2148 N. Long Ave. Residents say the school isn’t needed so close to where there’s already a neighborhood high school.

But when asked about this criticism, Mitts replied, “I just tell people, ‘Try it. You might like it.'”

Mitts added that the atmosphere at Horizon is more friendly than she’s seen at other schools. She said her grandson said he was bullied at his old school.

“There needs to be a change – a higher standard for our children,” Mitts told her tour group.

Pastor Angel Roman of Kingdom Voice Ministries said he expected to see a traditional school during the tour but thinks Horizon is advanced with its technological emphasis. He pointed to the robotics team in the school, which builds a Lego robot for competition in the spring.

The two student ambassadors who gave the Oct. 17th tour say they’re happy at the school. Fifth-grader Khiyla Pitt said she enjoys all the after-school clubs, specifically band, where she plays the flute.

Fifth grader Isabel Abarca said she likes the challenge at Horizon to get good grades.

“I feel like I have to earn my good grades here,” she said.

One thought on “New charter school welcomes community

  1. This article would be much more informative had the author mentioned that the charter for Horizon Science Academy had actually been rejected by the Board of Education but was imposed on the city by the Illinois State Charter School Commission. Additional helpful information would be that Concept Schools is a scandal-ridden organization that finds itself under investigation by various government bodies nationally; that it fired a pregnant teacher at CMSA in retaliation for union activity; and that it was having a great deal of difficulty finding sites for the two (imposed) charter school campuses due to intense neighborhood opposition all over the city.

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