As Irving ISD welcomes students back to school Monday, the district is making strides in helping fight learning loss.
The Night OWL Academy will make its debut this school year, aimed at helping high school students who are behind or at risk of not graduating. OWL stands for "Opportunities Without Limits".
The idea came about when the campus operations team conducted weekly home visits last year, meeting with 150 families per week during virtual learning.
“Through that you learn a lot about situations of students, families. We provide resources, we feed families and we talk about how we can support," said Lance Campbell, assistant chief of campus operations for Irving ISD. “Our campus operations team also teamed up with struggling seniors that year that may not have gotten across the stage, so we really spent a lot of time learning about them asking questions, asking how can we meet their needs."
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The academy gives students in danger of dropping out the opportunity to earn their high school diploma in the evening or during flex hours throughout the day.
Scheduling runs from 8 a.m. to almost 9 p.m. at night during the week.
"The cool thing about the Night OWL academy is we can get you four credits in nine weeks. What would take 36 weeks in a traditional setting we can do in nine here," Campbell said. "So kids can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We should be able to break down any barrier, if any student has a situation or circumstance that we couldn’t meet last year, we believe we can do that this year."
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The academy will be staffed by five full-time high school teachers, covering core subjects and an elective — all working to fight the so-called "COVID slide" that districts across North Texas have been battling since the pandemic began.
“We don’t know the depths of what our students have gone through in the past year and a half. We’ve had kids who have not been in school since March 2020," said Campbell. "So you’re talking about the social emotional aspect, the learning gap. In Irving, we are committed to meet kids where they are and our goal is the 'COVID climb' if you will — to improve their performance"
The academy is being hosted at the Barbara Cardwell Career Prep Center.
Additionally, the academy will help meet the needs of the district’s students who have work responsibilities and need a more flexible school-day schedule.
Students have to be 17 or older to enroll. Classes will include English, Algebra, Geometry, Biology, Chemistry, U.S. History, Art and more.
“We have been committed this year to making sure we get the seniors across the stage," said Campbell. “We’re going to be able to provide small group instruction. We'll be able to focus our attention on the individual needs of kids, and we'll be able to close the gap and improve our graduation rate."
The district also pointed out that once the announcement was made, they received interest from people in their 20s who never got to graduate high school in Irving. So the school district increased the age cap so that more people can finally earn their diploma.
“Anyone in the community that feels like they are wanting to graduate high school, we want to give them that opportunity," said Campbell. "Reach out to us, let’s look at your transcript and let’s see what we can do to help you get across the stage."
You can go online to learn more about the Night OWL Academy. You can also call For 972-600-5023.