Tucson's most nationally recognized charter school will open another campus this fall serving kindergarten through fourth grade.
Basis Charter School will open the campus to help younger students prepare for the rigorous curriculum found in its higher grades, said Jason Shorbe, the head of Basis Tucson.
This will be the school's first foray into the lower elementary grades. All of its other schools serve fifth grade and above.
"As we're opening into different markets, we found a lot of kids coming in are not ready for our curriculum," Shorbe said. "This is a pilot program to get them prepared."
The school hasn't finalized the curriculum for those grades, but school officials want to use this school as a model for other K-4 schools it could open in the future, Shorbe said.
The K-4 program will likely move into a building Basis owns at 3434 E. Broadway, near El Con Mall. It will be the only Basis campus serving lower grades, Shorbe said.
The building, which will be remodeled, formerly served fifth-through-12th-grade students who moved to a new campus, Basis Tucson North at 5740 E. River Road, near North Craycroft Road, in August.
There are two other Basis schools in the Tucson area - Basis Tucson, 3825 E. Second St., and Basis Oro Valley, 11155 N. Oracle Road.
Basis has five other schools in Arizona, along with a campus in Washington, D.C.
In the fall, the school also will open another campus in the Phoenix area and one in San Antonio.
Shorbe, who will oversee the newest campus, said school officials anticipate enrolling about 250 students.
Basis Tucson was ranked the number one charter school and sixth-best high school of any type in the 2012 U.S. News & World Report's Best High Schools list. The magazine has consistently ranked Basis among the nation's best for a number of years.
During a meeting for interested parents this week, Shorbe argued that the school's reputation for academic focus doesn't mean it will be a bad fit for young children.
"We don't want to take your kids and turn them into mindless robots," he said. "Don't listen to those rumors.
"To answer the first question that always comes up, yes, there will be a playground. We want them to be kids."
He noted that Basis has a lot of experience now receiving fifth-graders from other schools.
"We are going to take what we know works from all those schools and make them into one good school," he said.
He also said he hopes to tap into a pool of TUSD teachers who may become available after the district closes 11 schools this year.
The parents attending the standing-room-only meeting at the Joel Valdez Main Library in downtown Tucson were highly interested in the new school. Even current Basis parents such as Corina Ontiveros and Sandra Fisher were drawn to the meeting to find out what they could about the school for their younger children.
St. Michael's School parent Jamie Torrington said she went to the meeting on a "fact-finding mission" about the new Basis elementary school. "I wouldn't be doing my kids justice if I didn't come," she said.
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2 Info sessions set
Basis Charter School will host two information sessions on its new K-4 program.
The school will hold the sessions from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Jan. 29 and Feb. 1 at Basis Tucson, 3825 E. Second St..
Those who want to attend will have to RSVP by calling 326-6367 or sending an email to Beth Arzate at email@example.com
Contact reporter Jamar Younger at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4115. On Twitter: @JamarYounger