Walnut Hill Moves into New Home

Former elementary and middle schools join under one roof

Walnut Hill International Leadership Academy moved into its new home at the start of this semester.

Its former personas — Walnut Hill Elementary and Cary Middle School — were destroyed in the October 2019 tornado and consolidated into Walnut Hill International Leadership Academy.

The new, 126,000-square-foot building wasn’t ready until early 2023, so students have been learning at the former Tom Field Elementary campus. 

“It’s fascinating, that everything’s new,” said fourth grader Isabella Catalan. “Now we don’t have to be cramped up in the smaller school.”

The term “leadership academy” isn’t taken lightly. Principal Philip Meaker says the campus has a choice school environment that focuses on the language of leadership to show students the different ways they lead.

“The amenities that we were blessed with by Dallas ISD have really helped these kids grow, and it gives us a great potential going forward,” Meaker said.

Luero Diaz, who has been teaching talented and gifted students at the school for six years now, says the new campus allows for strong student collaboration.

“Environment is a very important piece for learning,” Diaz said. “If our students feel comfortable and happy coming here and excited to be here, I think it’s only conducive for the learning environment.”

The campus, which houses pre-K through eighth grade students, has 411 students enrolled, with a goal of 500 elementary and 300 middle school students.

Some of the new building’s highlights include:

• A library funded with the help of a $300,000 grant from the Laura Bush Foundation

• A gym that can provide 36 hours of storm shelter

• A community playground as part of the “Cool Schools” program

• A “cafetorium,” where the stage can connect the auditorium and gym if the divider is removed

• Outdoor art spaces for students to use their “creative senses”

In addition to the physical specs, some of the campus’ other features are:

• A dual-language program where students alternate learning in English and Spanish

• Three out of four pre-K classes taught in 100% Spanish

• Tablets for students until second grade; students third grade and above use Chromebooks

• Mentoring between middle and elementary school students

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