Pre-Lee children visit the Fire Station for Dad’s Night Out. (Photo courtesy of Leah Ekmark Williams).

Robert E. Lee Elementary is working hard to sway neighborhood parents to come back to Dallas ISD, despite all the ongoing debate about its controversial name. The school is surrounded by nearly million-dollar homes in a well-kept neighborhood, and an organization called Pre-Lee is hoping to recapture the neighborhood families.

Only 217 students zoned to Lee attend the school; another 53 transfer to other Dallas ISD schools or charter schools, and a whopping 526 students opt for private or home school.

Pre-Lee Association is for expectant parents and families in the Lee attendance zone to build community and learn more about the school. According to the website, the “primary mission is to cultivate relationships between neighbors and our children as we navigate the joys and challenges of parenthood-especially as it relates to education options in our neighborhood.”

The association was formed by Wendy Hatchell, a Lakewood Heights neighbor who wanted to convince her neighbors to choose the local public school. The group holds play dates, parents’ night out, educational forums and fundraisers that benefit the school. They also support the Lee by planning events in conjunction with the school, such as school tours and popsicles parties for current kindergarteners and pre-k students.

The efforts of Pre-Lee are starting to have an impact. According to Leah Ekmark Williams, a member of Pre-Lee, out of the 46 kindergarteners slated to enter Lee’s kindergarten class this year, there are 10 from families connected to Pre-Lee. “We are excited to have nearly 25 percent entering Robert E. Lee, especially since our group is still relatively new and continuing to grow,” she says.

Last year, the Advocate highlighted Lee Elementary’s principal Bert Hart, its new IB program and his efforts to bring local families back into the fold.

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