The N.W. Harllee School first began serving the Dallas community in 1928. As a cost saving measure in 2012, the school closed for what seemed to be the final time. But this year, the N.W. Harllee Early Childhood Center opened on the first day of school to classes full of three- and four-year-olds, and loads of community support.
Since its opening 87 years ago, the school has educated students in grades pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. Many of those former students still live in the South Dallas community where Harllee is located, as new Principal Onjaleke Brown soon discovered. During a summer visit to a local church, Brown recounted that after a speech where she explained the school and asked for support, one woman stood up and sang the school song, which she remembered from her time there.
“Then another woman stood up and said, ‘No, that’s not it… this was the school song when I was there!’ and she proceeded to sing a different song,” Brown said. “I think one was the school song and one was the ‘fight’ song, since the school did go through 12th grade at one point.”
Those ties to the school have proven invaluable to the Harllee students and staff as area churches, residents and businesses continue to donate time and supplies. An area artist even donated the windmill sculpture which graces the main entrance, as well as a “book box” on the school’s front lawn.
The plans are for the school to one day serve as a demonstration site, with one-way windows and audio boxes so struggling teachers can come observe the state of the art techniques used at Harllee. With touch screens the size of large screen televisions in every classroom, along with other age appropriate learning materials and technology, these rooms create the perfect space to observe best practices.
Harllee has also partnered with the Rosie M. Collins Sorrells School of Education and Social Services at Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center, located across the street. This allows the students to come in and observe instruction in a real world environment. Ms. Sorrells herself attended the first day of professional training for the new school’s staff.
“My vision is to be a premier early childhood center where you can see quality instruction,” Brown said. “I want to eventually have partnerships with area universities for their early childhood program training.”
The school currently operates four classrooms: two for three year olds and two for four year olds. Because the younger students switch out at mid-day, their two rooms accommodate four classes. Phase two will incorporate the remaining outer classrooms on the first floor, and phase three will open the upstairs classrooms and add formalized professional development.
Although in Phase 1, Harllee will host a ribbon cutting event on Sept. 25, and Brown expects a full house.
“My long-term goal is for Harllee to operate as a true early childhood center, able to serve children from birth through age eight,” Brown said.