‘Small School With a Lot of Heart’

Compass aims to provide students with solid foundation

There’s a new private school in Preston Hollow.

The Compass School of Texas opened its doors at the start of this school year, serving pre-K through second grade.

“Our mission is to really engage the children deeply in the core curriculum and the explicit part of the education and then blend it together with (specials),” head of school Shelly Sender said.

Some of the specials include farm-to-table, yoga, music, and chess. Students also participate in daily Spanish coursework.

The school also prioritizes learning through math, reading, and other subjects to create well-rounded students, founder and board chair Francis Harrison said.

“To be able to allow children to continue to grow, you have to lay a very strong foundation,” Harrison said, describing the relationship between core curriculum and specials.

The school currently has 43 students enrolled and plans to add one grade level yearly until it reaches eighth grade.

The Compass School uses a methodology known as Reggio Emilia that focuses on a trifecta of the child, parent, and environment. Partnerships with parents include bringing them in for lunch duty, recess, guest lectures, and outside-of-school events. 

Teachers also focus on allowing students to feel respected and have their voices heard.

“We really want them to be strong leaders, and we do a lot of character building,” Sender said. “(The school environment) takes into consideration the child and what brings concepts to life to them.”

Harrison wanted to start The Compass School, along with her sister Caroline Loehr and longtime friend Frances Mitchell, after identifying that there weren’t enough seats in Dallas private schools to meet the community’s needs.

“(We) felt the call to help open more school options and then also really wanted to see a school that partnered with the parents the way that we’re doing, and then having a daily Spanish class was important to me,” Harrison said.

To Sender, the school brings rigor and explicit education while still providing students with a comforting and soothing environment. 

Harrison’s goals for the school’s first year are for the students to progress and meet academic milestones and for parents to be pleased with their school choice.

“And their children are blossoming and thriving,” Sender added. “We don’t want children just to progress; we want them to thrive with their progress, and that’s truly what children are doing.” 

The Compass School leaders hope students learn healthy habits at school from a young age, whether it’s through mindfulness, food choices, work-life balance, or other measures.

“The intentionality behind everything and it being very holistic, we want our children to be proficient readers and to love reading and love learning,” Mitchell said.

As a first-year school, Harrison emphasizes the intention and thought put into operations because there isn’t a 100+ year track record like other schools. 

“We’re starting fresh,” she said. “We’re outlining some of the traditions that we’d like to see carry on throughout the years.”

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