A Spring Branch ISD application-based charter school, Westchester Academy for International Studies (WAIS) originally opened in 1967 as Westchester High School to accommodate a surge in enrollment for Memorial High School. Westchester opened with eighteen hundred students and grew to four thousand in seven years, prompting the opening of Stratford High School near Westchester. In 1985, Westchester High School was closed and its students transferred to Stratford and Memorial due to a decrease in enrollment. After the completion of a large renovation project, the school reopened in 2001 as Westchester Academy for International Studies. Westchester now supports nearly a thousand students in grades 6-12. Students in grades 6-10 partake of the IB Middle Years Programme, and students in grades 11-12 work toward an IB Diploma.
As a charter school within SBISD, Westchester Academy has no religious affiliation. Students’ religious convictions do not factor into admissions, and the curriculum does not include theological material. While there is no institutionalized prayer in the school, there is a daily minute of silence during which students may choose to pray. Additionally, absences due to religious holidays do not count against a student’s record, though the student is still responsible for make-up work.
Located at the corner of Yorkchester Drive and Patchester Drive, Westchester’s 8-acre lot contains its main campus, multiple support buildings, and two parking lots. Westchester’s athletic facilities include a baseball field, football field (surrounded by a track), two soccer fields, four tennis courts, and a gym.
To apply for admission to Westchester Academy, students and parents must complete and submit an application, which includes Assurances and a Family-School Commitment Form, along with the student’s most recent report card and transcript (for applicants to grades 10-12). The family must also provide proof of residence in the Spring Branch ISD zone. Some applicants will also be asked to participate in an interview with some of Westchester’s faculty. Eligible applicants are then enrolled on a space-available basis. If there are more applicants than available spaces, then the eligible applicants will be entered into a lottery. Siblings of current Westchester students will be offered enrollment before the lottery takes place. In the event there are more eligible siblings than available spaces, a separate lottery will be used for siblings.
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Westchester students exclusively pursue an advanced curriculum with International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Students are expected to take part in the IB program in full or by taking specific subjects as part of the program. As the IB program continues to develop, the school will offer more IB courses in place of AP courses. Students may also earn college credit through SBISD’s Early College program by taking courses at Houston Community College.
In order to graduate with a Recommended Diploma, students must complete 26 credits; one credit is equivalent to one year of study. The credit distribution requirements are as follows: English (4), social studies (4), math (4), science (4), foreign language (2), physical education (2), speech (0.5), fine arts (1), and electives (5.5). A Distinguished Diploma requires one more year of a foreign language, which replaces one year of electives.
In order to graduate with an International Baccalaureate Diploma, students are required to complete six subjects, three “Higher Level” and three “Standard Level” courses. These subjects include a first language, a second language, math, science, a social science, and an IB elective. Students must also complete 150 hours of CAS (Creativity, Action, and Service), a 4,000-word research essay, and a capstone course titled “Theory of Knowledge.”
As a district charter school, Westchester does not have the same state-required services as a comprehensive neighborhood public school. While Westchester will admit students with learning differences, students are expected to meet the school’s curriculum requirements. The ARD committee and Westchester faculty will be the deciding body as to whether or not a position at Westchester is appropriate for the applicant with learning differences. Students who do not and cannot meet the expectations of the school are assisted in a return to their home school.
Westchester offers students a number of foreign languages, as required by the IB Program. Students may take AP and IB courses in Spanish Literature and Language, German, and French. Students may also take an IB course in Italian. If an applicant to seventh or eighth grade has not previously earned a credit in a foreign language, then the student will not be allowed to take a foreign language course until the student’s ninth grade year unless they are a native speaker and test accordingly. Students coming to Westchester from district elementary school Dual Language programs will continue in SBISD’s Dual Language Secondary Program.
Westchester students may take IB courses in Music, Theater Arts, and Visual Arts. Students may also participate in Choir.
Westchester provides several technology courses: Web Mastery, Robotics, Design Cycle, Computers, Animation, Programming, Multimedia, and Digital Communications.
Westchester hosts a number of clubs and organizations for its students. Notable examples include Dance, Model United Nations, Chess Club, Comedy Club, Aquatics, Knitting Club, National Honor Society, Student Council, and several service organizations. Students are expected to participate in at least one club while attending Westchester.
Westchester Academy does not offer any interscholastic sports programs, but students may participate in athletics at the school for which they were originally zoned. The school does host a number of sports clubs. Students may participate in the Spartan Lacrosse Club (boys), the Meatheads Weightlifting Club, the Middle School Soccer Club, and the Tennis Club.
Every parent signs a Family-School Commitment Form to facilitate smooth interaction with WAIS faculty and staff. Parents may also join the PTA to become more involved or volunteer as mentors.