Posted Date: 06/30/2020
For the last ten years, Alicia Elizondo has been making the drive across town at least twice a day from her home in southwest Amarillo to northeast Amarillo where her children attend school at Humphrey’s Highland Elementary. Alicia’s four oldest children are all alumni or currently enrolled at Humphrey’s. There’s an Amarillo ISD elementary school within blocks of her home, but Alicia says the dual language program at Humphrey’s makes every minute and mile worth it. “We live and work on the south side of town, but go to school and church on the northeast side of town,” says Alicia. “I came to the U.S. from Mexico when I was 11 and had to learn the language. It is very important for our heritage to continue in our family. I don’t want my kids to not know where they came from.”
The Elizondos are not alone in their choice to transfer their children to a school other than their neighborhood school. About 10 percent of students enrolled in AISD currently do this.
“Our open transfer policy lets parents apply to have their child attend school anywhere in the district, provided that school has room for them,” says Superintendent Dr. Dana West. “Sometimes a parent’s work location makes one school more convenient than other. Often, parents and students seek out specific programs that meet a student’s particular needs or interests, or programs that are not available at other campuses or even other school districts in the area. It is important to us to allow families the opportunity of choice and there is a lot of choice that comes with the 55 campuses which serve our scholars.” Amarillo High, for example, has the panhandle’s only International Baccalaureate diploma, widely considered the most rigorous high school diploma available. The district-wide fifth-grade string orchestra program, middle school soccer opportunities, more than 100 career and technical education courses and 150 internships and mentorships are among numerous choices available for families.
For the Elizondos, it was a dual language program that drew them to choose a different school. Still, the decision was one they considered carefully. “I’ve heard nothing but great things about our neighborhood school. But I was targeting something that could help enrich and preserve our heritage and the dual language program at Humphrey’s Highland seemed to be the best fit for that,” says Alicia.
When Alicia’s oldest child, Oscar, now a freshman at Amarillo High, finished elementary school and prepared to transition from Humphrey’s to Bonham Middle School, Alicia worried about the years of language immersion and what effect that might have once he left Humphrey’s dual language program. “He learned to read and write in Spanish. At Humphrey’s, they even take the STAAR test in Spanish. I was concerned about how he would do,” she says. But Oscar sailed right into Pre-AP classes and never looked back. “Learning both languages, it’s like both sides of the brain are working,” says Alicia. “You’re taking full advantage of your brain.”
With Oscar’s success, the Elizondos have continued to take full advantage of AISD’s open transfer policy. Two of Oscar’s younger sisters are products of Humphrey’s gifted and talented program, and a third sister is now in kindergarten at Humphrey’s. When it’s time, Alicia knows exactly which pre-K program she’ll choose for her youngest child. “Seeing all the opportunities I had because I was bilingual, I know Humphrey’s is right for us,” she says. “It is an honor to attend AISD. I know several people who are out of district who don’t necessarily have the opportunities AISD has with such amazing programs. There are so many doors. There’s something for everyone to succeed. It’s limitless.”