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West Side school expands options for families

Parents and students attend an open house in Coyote Willow Family School’s multi-purpose space on Thursday. The West Side school, which opened in August, offers a mix of home schooling and classroom time. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Albuquerque Public Schools celebrated its new West Side magnet school with an open house on Thursday.

Coyote Willow Family School at 7125 Irving Blvd. NW offers a mix of home school and classroom experience, a popular model pioneered at Desert Willow Family School in Northeast Albuquerque.

“We have been collecting data for years to show this was needed on the West Side,” said Principal Gael Keyes.

The new $8.4 million Coyote Willow Family School, which opened in August, houses 16 general education classrooms, along with specialized facilities for art, science and special education. The 38,000-square-foot building can accommodate 300 students in kindergarten through eighth grades.

Families choose between 50 percent or 80 percent classroom instruction time.

Superintendent Raquel Reedy credited Keyes for pushing to make the school a reality.

“Gael had a dream for a family school,” Reedy said during the open house. “She gave it her all.”

The new Coyote Willow Family School on Irving Boulevard NW has 16 general classrooms, along with classrooms for special education, science and art. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Nearly 30 years ago, Keyes launched the first family school program in the basement of Monte Vista Elementary School.

Eventually, she moved into Desert Willow’s current building at Monroe and Comanche NE, which is expanding to add seven new classrooms, a lecture hall and playground thanks to $3 million in bond funds.

Desert Willow’s popular program has had a waiting list of around 250 for the past five years, and Coyote Willow is already at 80 percent capacity.

Wes and Amanda Darnell said they picked Coyote Willow for their 5-year-old son, Glen, because the other parents are very involved in their children’s education.

“They are really invested in the kids,” Wes Darnell said.

Johannah Johnson, 8, and her brother, Christian Johnson, 11, walk on the bleachers in Coyote Willow Family School’s multi-purpose area during an open house. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Every morning, Glen attends kindergarten in a classroom that also includes first- and second-graders.

He comes home at lunchtime, and does fun activities with his mom such as field trips to the zoo or a museum.

Coyote Willow Family School’s location is convenient for the Darnell family.

Amanda Darnell said she was willing to drive Glen across town to Desert Willow Family School, but she is glad he is close by.

APS is working to meet growing demand on the West Side, breaking ground for a new $50 million K-8 school near Nusenda Community Stadium in late January.

The 45,000-square-foot facility, slated to open in summer 2018, will accommodate up to 1,600 students in 74 classrooms.