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Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Louisiana Key Academy

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Unlocking the world for dyslexic children

Every day we are bombarded in print, visual and social media with stories highlighting things that need improving in our community. It is easy for each of us to display a constant state of the “glass half-empty.”

On the other hand, it may be more appropriate to look at our community with the attitude of “glass halffull.” Within the last year, Amazon announced a large distribution center, and the legislature has allocated money to renovate a previous federal courthouse for use as an office building for state workers in downtown Shreveport.

In the past year, major projects on the designer’s table include remodeling Fair Grounds Field and the surrounding neighborhood and major upgrades to casinos on the Bossier side of the Red River. It is my belief we can include as another major boost for our community.

Over the last couple of years, literacy has been the major concentration of our elementary schools. It is a return to the basics of ensuring students attain high standards in “reading, writing and arithmetic.” This concentration in reading has led to a new look at helping students overcome dyslexia – a reading disorder in 20% of students.

Over the last year, a group of people in our community has been working with the founders of Louisiana Key Academy charter schools in Baton Rouge and the North Shore. The goal soon to be a reality is to bring a specialty charter school for dyslexic children to Northwest Louisiana. Now with the unanimous approval of BESE added to our community’s tremendous support and response, the school is on track to open for the coming 2023-24 school year.

There are many things parents, families and our community need to know about the Key Academy. As follows:

Louisiana Key Academy is a tuition-free charter school for students with dyslexia. The school is an innovative approach to school choice. Until now, the only options for families were neighborhood public schools and private schools associated with substantial costs.

Though the school will be in Caddo Parish, this specialty school is available to all residents of the state of Louisiana with close proximity and easy access to Bossier, DeSoto and Webster parishes.

There is no attendance zone. The school will begin serving children in K-4 grades. The school is currently chartered as a K-8 school, and a new grade will be added every year until all grades are served.

Louisiana Key Academy is an innovative approach to the common problem of dyslexia. Concentrating on reading in small groups with well-trained teachers is the foundation of success. The school duplicates in Caddo Parish two already successful charters in Baton Rouge and the North Shore.

Louisiana Key Academy leadership is outstanding and well-known across the state. Dr. Laura Cassidy is a physician and mother of a child with dyslexia working to build a better system for dyslexic children across our state. The principal is Pam Barker, a successful education leader with experience as a previous leader of special education in Caddo Parish and a former principal at a local charter school.

Screening and testing for dyslexia can be done without cost through Louisiana Key Academy. The application process starts with a free screening process, and for those students “at risk” for dyslexia, testing is free, regardless of where the student is currently in school.

Louisiana Key Academy offers all major subjects and follows Louisiana standards and grade-level content. The school is designed to teach children to read and write and access grade-level material– teaching them to overcome dyslexia. Most importantly, the school concentrates on building up every child’s selfimage and making them confident students. Louisiana Key Academy teaches parents about dyslexia, so they are advocates for their children to reach their full potential.

Dyslexia is common and seen in 20% of the population. It is defined as “an unexpected difficulty in reading in an individual who has the intelligence to be a much better reader.” Most dyslexics are bright students with average to aboveaverage intelligence who struggle to read and spell. A dyslexic child’s perception that they are a failure is the foundation of self-image problems, with children often acting out or hating school.

Several famous people had to overcome dyslexia to gain success in life. In elementary school, CNN News analyst Anderson Cooper “could not make sense of letters and words.” He noted, “School was a very isolating place.” Albert Einstein’s teachers said, “Nothing would become of the boy.” He revolutionized physics with the theory of relativity. Because of his dyslexia, George Washington taught himself workarounds so he could “make sense of the written word.”

Louisiana Key Academy is located in the previously closed and currently remodeled Arthur Circle Elementary School located in Broadmoor (261 Arthur Ave.). The site is perfect for the school in an easily accessible and stable neighborhood. It has the capacity to meet the growth of the envisioned K-8 school.

Registration is going on now. If you have any questions, call Principal Pam Barker at 318-752-6257 for a tour or help with questions. An application form and information can be found under the Caddo tab of the website lkaschools.com.

Before, a year ago, I could not have given you the answer to the question of why a specialty school for dyslexia could be so important to our community. I know now it is because reading is the foundation of education, and this school has an innovative approach to a common reading problem. The school gives choices to families with dyslexic children regardless of socioeconomic status.

Louisiana Key Academy is important because dyslexia is present in 20% of the general population, and it is noted in 50% of people in our prisons. This makes it understandable why third-grade reading scores are used to estimate the future need for jail cells. To be proactive in public safety, we have to believe advancement in literacy, and reading is a long-term investment for our community.

And lastly, the personal stories are most important. Since working on this project, I can’t remember any public gathering I have attended where someone did not come up to me to relay some of their own stories and some of their family and friends. It happened at a school board meeting, a city council meeting, a meeting with state legislators, a retirement party of a friend, or when I was just out to eat. Suffice it to say, these stories are plenty of proof of the future importance of Louisiana Key Academy and its future as a game changer for so many children in overcoming dyslexia.

Dr. Phillip Rozeman is a cardiologist. He is the host of the KTBS-3 podcast Education Check-Up. He was recently honored with the lifetime service award of CABL and the NW Louisiana Medical Society.

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