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School sees surge in enrollment

Posted at 3:00 PM, Dec 18, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-18 17:00:28-05
MARANA (KGUN9-TV) - Less than one year ago, the school was just a rendering and a construction site in Marana. Now, the Leman Academy of Excellence's staff are expecting to almost double the enrollment for the next school year, as well as expand the school system.
But, for 6th Grade teacher Heather Woods, she said she's not surprised by its instant success. 
"I had lost my passion. I had worked in another school district here in Tucson for 10 years and I was unhappy," Woods described. "I was ready to leave."
Woods told KGUN9, the school gave her that teaching spark back. 
A spark that Principal and Head of Schools Dennis O'Reilly said he sees beaming back through the students. 
"That fed into - now the kids are seeing that and it's been reciprocated," O'Reilly explained. "We all just want to be here." 
O'Reilly said, what makes the school unique is that it is the first tuition-free charter school in the Tucson-area to follow a classical education model. That is where all of the subjects are focused around the same-time period. 
"So, it's all interwoven and connected, so it makes totally sense to the kids," O'Reilly said. "They're not trying to piece it all together and figure it out - it's like, 'no this makes sense.'"
The school also follows the principals and ideas of its founder, Kevin Leman. He said what makes his school different is what makes it great. 
"You'll see jingles in the classroom where kids are learning about a sentence... The parts of a sentence and it's fun to see them do it to music and with motions," Leman said. "I wanted a school that was fun. This is a fun school. But, it's academically challenging to the kids, for sure."
Something seems to be clicking with the parents, as well. 
"We've seen a tremendous response from the parents who had kids in schools where they didn't want to go to school and now they don't to go on vacation," Leman laughed.
The school opened its doors to about 500 students in August. Since then, the school has seen a 10% jump in enrollment. 
"We're up to - including the ones that have already enrolled [for the fall] - we're up to 800 students," O'Reilly explained. 
Leman also plans on expanding. They will be breaking ground on a new middle school and pre-school in just a couple of weeks. 
"We're growing... we're maturing," O'Reilly said. "We are going to be a bigger school district in a number of years."
Kevin Leman hopes to bring his new school-system, not only around the state, but around the country. 
"The enabled generation is there and we're trying to help them become good citizens in every aspect," Leman said.
For Woods, she told KGUN9, that in this model and in this school, she knows she can make a difference for the next generation. 
"No limitations... I've never been given an opportunity to teach like that where kids really love to learn and I really love to teach," Woods said.