Harlingen creating arts academy for elementary students

HARLINGEN — Academies.

They aren’t just for teenagers and adults.

Grade schoolers will soon get into advanced learning at Lee Means Elementary when the Fine Arts Academy opens in the fall.

“It’s in its infancy, so we don’t have a lot of the details yet,” said Lori Romero, assistant superintendent for elementary education.

The Fine Arts Academy will be the latest in a series of academies, or set of specialized courses, being created throughout the district.

Another is the STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Medicine) Preparatory Academy also scheduled to open in the fall at the former St. Paul Academy.

The Fine Arts Academy will offer elementary school children the chance to learn more about arts in its many forms, including music, dance and creative arts.

“We will have music strands, theater and drama strands, and dance strands,” Romero said. “In other words, we’re going to expose the kids to that. Those are all the pieces the committee is still working through. What is that going to look like, what are we going to be offering the children?”

Many of the strands, or pieces, will be extensions of subjects already offered at Lee Means.

“Music, we already have music, but we’re going to extend that and expose them to more things,” Romero said. “Same thing with the dance. They already have folklorico there. What other pieces of dance can we bring to the kids?”

And of course, what is an elementary school without visual arts? There will be more of that, too.

“What can we do with the arts to teach them a little more about the different types of art?” she asked rhetorically.

The academy will also introduce children to theater and drama. Of course, students already attending Lee Means will be able to participate in the academy. Students not enrolled at the school can apply.

“Of course the academic core is the most important part,” she said. “That will still be there. They do very well academically. All we’re doing is infusing some art.”

School Board President George McShan hailed the creation of the Fine Arts Academy.

“I think it gives opportunities to parents and students to make decisions early on about art, what it will do to inspire them to be creative young people,” McShan said.

“The arts is a great starting point because they can imagine fun. It will also be learning for them and I think it will strengthen their self-esteem.”

Romero pointed out the importance of “vertical alignment,” in which students will be able to build on previous learning. For example, after experiencing speech and drama at the elementary level, they can enroll at the middle school level.


– Music

– Dance

– Theater and drama

– Visual arts


-Firefighters Academy

-Transportation, Distribution and Logistics Academy

– Media Arts and Communications Academy

– Teacher Academy

– Health Science Academy

– Apprenticeship Academy

– STEMM Squared Preparatory Academy