By Jennifer Lindgren


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ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – Some of the youngest students in Arlington ISD are on a new learning path this fall. The school district opened two new, dual language and fine arts academies for elementary-age pupils. It is a unique program that will grow in the coming years, eventually up to senior high school.

Arlington ISD has arts and language programs already in place – but combining the two into a rigorous, relevant and innovate style of teaching is new – and a concept that Superintendent Dr. Marcelo Cavazos hopes, can serve as a model.

“Starting with Kindergartners, we feel, is the best way to start them engaged in language and engaged in the arts. There’s a full proficiency; once they go through elementary school, they are actually proficient in both the language and the arts they are experiencing. In deciding to repurpose two campuses, the district spent the last two years developing the concept.

“There are programs that specialize in fine arts. Programs that specialize in language. We’ve combined the two things,” said Dr. Cavazos. “We change the experience that a student has in school and we enrich it.”

The two campuses are Corey Academy (six Kindergarten classes) and Jones Academy (four Kindergarten classes). Corey academy Kindergartners attend class in the Corey Elementary School building on Kelly Elliot Road. As the academy grows each year, it will eventually take over that campus.

Jones operates as an academy within Roquemore Elementary School on Van Buren Drive. A new school is expected to be built in the area. Arlington ISD eliminated zoning for Corey Academy this fall – but all students who applied were admitted.

Next year, students at Roquemore will be rezoned, but administrators say there will be opportunities for families who want to attend Jones Academy to stay.

“We love the idea of something different. Something non-traditional but that was definitely the future of education,” said Gara Hill.

Hill learned about the plans for Corey Academy in late 2014. This past spring, she attended an informational meeting and filled out an application so her son could go. She said the first six weeks were great for Travis, who is 6-years-old.

Ninety minutes of the school day are spent away from the desk focusing on fine arts and activity: theater, dance, music, piano, art and P.E. The remaining hours are academics-driven: language arts and social studies, and are taught in English. Science and math are taught in Spanish.

On Wednesday, children in Ms. Sanchez’s class at Corey Academy practiced shapes and colors in Spanish.

“The beauty of it, as being a five or six year old, is that they have no frame of reference for what Kindergarten should look like. So this is normal. He learns in Spanish and he learns in English, so he’s able to put it all together,” said Hill, who says her son is already bringing some of those skills home.

Principal Matt Varnell says the power is the integration of the lessons.

“Art for the sake of art has value. Music for the sake of music has value, as does language,” Varnell said. Blending it together, he says, is what will bring lessons to life.

“When we’re experiencing it through piano and I’m learning music and touch, and listening skills, I’m developing all my senses as a learner and causing the student to be open to all of that concept,” said Varnell.

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Jennifer Lindgren