BELTON — Jessica Housewright stood in the hot sun Thursday evening at Wilson-Kerzee Field for a chance for her son, Ethan Housewright, an eighth-grader at Central Texas Christian School, to attend Belton New Tech High School @Waskow next year.
It is the yearly camp out for freshman registration and it has become necessary after a high demand from parents wanting their children to attend the project-based learning and technology-driven campus.
“It is a different approach to learning that I think my boys will benefit from,” parent Quinton Locklin said. “In the long run, with the way society is going, it is definitely going to be a plus for them.”
It is the sixth year the school has held the unusual registration for eighth-graders. The 135 freshmen that get in this year will become members of the school’s Class of 2020. After the first 90 secure a spot, the other students are entered into a lottery for the remaining spots.
Principal Jill Ross said the camp grows every year and parents do everything they can to make sure their child makes the cut.
“This year we had a mom who came here to wait since 5 a.m. (Thursday) morning in that terrible thunderstorm,” Ross said.
Ross said that woman ended up being the first in line when the camp began at 5 p.m. Thursday, securing a spot for her child.
In order to assure it is fair to all camping out until the 8 a.m. registration Saturday, Ross said there will be check-ins at different times to make sure a random selection of tents is following the rules.
“When families sign in and get their number, they also leave us with three adults’ names,” Ross said. “We have to have one adult per child (registering) at all times.”
Randy Pittenger, president of the school board for the Belton Independent School District, said every year the camp out says a lot about the quality of education at New Tech.
“It amazes me to see people camped out to get their kids into a public school,” Pittenger said.
Belton ISD Superintendent Susan Kincannon said New Tech offers high school students unique and varied learning opportunities.
The Apple Distinguished School has received the highest rating available, meaning it met standards from the Texas Education Agency, which is based on student performance on the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness.
“New Tech is a smaller campus,” Kincannon said. “Its focus on technology and problem-based learning, and its unique culture, offer high school students an important choice. It’s a choice that parents and students are passionate about, too.”
Kincannon said the camp out translates into an “incredible sense of community and school spirit at New Tech.”
This evening there will be activities to entertain families including quidditch, soccer and games to help people get to know one another.
With just a purse, a big bottle of water and sunglasses, Housewright’s strategy for the camp out consists of the bare minimum.
“We just live right up the road,” she said. “So it is not like we need to bring everything. We brought the tent and stuff to sleep on, and my husband can drop stuff off as we need it.”
While the elements may pose a danger to campers, Ross said they have several measures in place to keep those safe if Mother Nature takes a turn for the worst, even if the forecast indicates clear and sunny skies.
“We will evacuate the field if we have lightning within an 8-mile radius,” she said. “We will let them know when it is safe to come back.”
Last year campers evacuated the field four times. Ross said they ask families to sign up for the school’s text-messaging system that can alert parents of weather, changes or updated information.
“Additional learner applications will be accepted through May 16 for the lottery,” Kyle DeBeer, district spokesman, said in a news release. “Which will take place on May 18.”
New Tech opened its doors five years ago and graduated its first senior class in June 2015. This year 103 students will graduate June 2.