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Victoria charter school could open in January

By KBell
Aug. 18, 2011 at 3:18 a.m.

Alan Wimberley, chief systems officer for Responsive Education Solutions, answers questions from parents about opening a new charter school at the former Outreach Academy Wednesday night. Not enough students enrolled to open the school for fall but Wimberley hopes to open a charter school in Victoria in January.

Representatives from the largest charter school district in Texas left town Thursday vowing to return in January with a new charter school.

Alan Wimberley, chief systems officer for Responsive Education Solutions, said he intends to present the company's executive team with the proposal to open Vista Academy of Victoria in the middle of the upcoming school year.

"I really had a very clear sense that the community would be very open, very responsive to a high-quality, high-expectation charter school," he said on his way back to Lewisville.

About 80 parents and children packed the former Outreach Word Academy building Wednesday night to learn more about the charter district. Wimberley said Responsive Education Solutions would be inclined to open a school as early as Aug. 29 if about 150 students signed up to attend.

By Thursday afternoon, only 74 students had made that commitment, leading Wimberley to suggest waiting a few more months to establish a school in Victoria.

Though the charter system doesn't usually open a school in the middle of the school year, Wimberley said the demand following the closing of Outreach Word Academy creates a different situation.

"We've actually talked to people who have said, please, we want a school," he said.

Maria Delagarza , a grandmother of a former Outreach student, said she was impressed with Wimberley's presentation and honesty about the reality of bringing a new charter school to Victoria.

"It's much needed, so I'm just hoping that they don't change their mind," she said.

Her granddaughter had been looking forward to another year at Outreach, this year as a kindergartner, Delagarza said. The family was happy with the staff and education at the school, and she's convinced the Vista school would provide the same opportunities.

"I think that at her grade level, she'll be all right, and she does excellent with changes," Delagarza said. "If we decide to transfer in January, I think that she'll be fine."

However, another parent of a former Outreach student has already resolved to sending her kids to Victoria public schools for the entire upcoming year.

Sara Calzada, 27, said she wants to maintain stability for her three kids, especially the ones just entering school.

"With them being so young and them being so excited about school, I'm just going to keep them in VISD," she said. "Especially at 4 years old and 5 years old, they start meeting friends."

Calzada said she'll make enrollment decisions next year based on feedback from those who do switch schools in January, should the Vista Academy open then.

She said she'll also consider how her fourth-grade son performs on state testing this year compared to last, when he excelled at Outreach Academy.

Wimberley is confident, though, that the charter district's approach to learning will benefit students in Victoria.

"Kids rise to whatever expectation you put in front of them, and we want that," he said. "That's the kind of reputation Vista has, and we would expect nothing less in Victoria."

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