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Hopes high for new family school on West Side

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque Public Schools continued its expansion on the West Side, dedicating a new magnet school on Monday that will mix traditional classroom time and home instruction.

The $8.4 million NW Family School at 7125 Irving Blvd. NW is set to open for the 2017-18 school year with 18 classrooms for students in kindergarten through eighth grades. It will follow a model that is already popular at Desert Willow Family School, which has had a waiting list of around 250 for the past five years.

“We need to be able to find out what is the best way to ensure the learning success of students,” said Superintendent Raquel Reedy. “This program does just that.”

At Desert Willow and its new West Side sister school, students choose 50 percent or 80 percent classroom time, and spend the rest of the day attending home-based instruction.

It attracts a variety of kids, including young actors and athletes who want more flexibility in their schedules.

This fall, 300 students will be able to attend each school.

Desert Willow Principal Gael Keyes said she is thrilled to see the new West Side location coming to fruition 27 years after she 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.

“It’s amazing, the support I have received from APS,” Keyes told the Journal. “I can’t tell you how many parents want to participate in their kids’ educations and this allows them a public school option.”

Ingrid Symes is one of those parents. Her three children – Dallin, 13, Julia, 9, and Darrin, 7 – are all attending Desert Willow and will switch to the new NW Family School in the fall.

“There is a community atmosphere,” Symes said. “The teachers have been really great. Gael’s curriculum is wonderful. We know the teachers they are training for this school will be just as great.”

Dallin added that he is looking forward to a shorter commute. NW Family School is just a short bike ride away, compared with the 45-minute trek to Desert Willow.

Keyes said many Desert Willow families endure similar drives, which shows their dedication to the program.

“It is a school that means a lot to parents,” she said. “It is amazing this school will be in their own backyard.”

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.