Motivation runs high for the Bahr family of Maricopa, and they wanted a school that encouraged it in their children.

When her husband Christopher, who was an engineer for Intel, decided to drop that career and follow a calling into law, Cassandra Bahr was on board. Christopher took the LSAT, went to law school at Arizona State University, and is now a lawyer.

The family moved to Maricopa from Chandler in 2001. Their children originally went to public schools, but it wasn't the vibrant and nurturing experience Cassandra Bahr desired her children's school to be. She talked to some friends who had kids going to Horizon Community Learning Center and decided to apply.

"We did a lot of praying and, luckily, we got in," Bahr said.

The experience at Horizon, thus far, has met her expectations when it comes to school. She has four children who currently attend - a senior, a freshman, a sixth-grader and a first-grader.

The Ahwatukee Foothills charter school's constant waiting list to get in is a tribute to the success they bring about in their students, Bahr said.

"The biggest difference was the parental involvement," she said. "At Horizon, they are constantly encouraging parents to come in and there are things in place so parents have an evaluation of where their kids are and how they are doing."

Charter schools are privately run and publicly funded. They are free to the public and, in the first steps, must apply to the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools for a charter. For instance, BASIS was just awarded a charter by the board and is currently evaluating where to place a new school in Ahwatukee Foothills.

Schools like Horizon and BASIS, the Tucson campus of which is constantly ranked as one of the best high schools in any category in the country, are in high demand. All Phoenix BASIS schools have a waiting list as well and one administrator attributes that to the way the law about charter schools is written.

"Because of the legislation, we are able to be successful because the law allows us to say we think kids are capable of learning more, and because of that there is high demand," said Nick Fleege, director of new school development for BASIS. "Students are capable of more than what we traditionally ask of them. Instead of an elite group, we think all students can be pushed to a higher level of achievement."

Fleege gave the example of how they teach science at a BASIS school. He said that they start with chemistry, biology and physics in sixth grade and so by the time they reach high school, a student will have had three years of each.

"We teach them how to be scholarly," he said. "We teach them how to study - study what you don't know."

The BASIS team is determining where to put their new location in Ahwatukee Foothills. They are still deciding whether to move into a building or build one from the ground up.

If things move quickly enough, there is a chance the school could open for the 2012-13 school year.

To find out more about BASIS, visit www.basisschools.org.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or troemhild@ahwatukee.com

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