The Westchester Academy for International Studies (WAIS) is a public charter school in the Spring Branch Independent School District in Houston, Texas. It serves grades 6–12 and is an International Baccalaureate continuum school, authorized for Middle Years, Career-related, and Diploma Programmes. As of 2017 Dr. Pamela Butler is the head of the school.
Due to the expanding enrollment of Memorial High School the school district built Westchester High School in 1967. The school opened with an enrollment of one thousand eight hundred students. After seven years the school had increased to nearly four thousand students. The campus could not support the numbers, and as such Stratford High School was built in close proximity to Westchester, opening in 1974.
Due to the oil bust in the early 1980s, the destruction of nearby apartment complexes, and many original home owners keeping their homes after their children had grown, enrollment in all SBISD high schools dropped dramatically. By 1985, the resulting decreases in enrollment forced the school board to close Westchester and relocate its former students to Memorial and Stratford High Schools. Most Westchester students ended up attending Stratford High School, which for many years kept a permanent display case dedicated to Westchester memorabilia.
During a thirteen-year period the campus was leased to Houston Community College.
In 1987 about 30 students from SBISD and the Houston Independent School District gathered at Westchester High to study Japanese on every Saturday.
After this duration Spring Branch ISD made plans for the campus that resulted in a massive amount of construction and improvement on the pre-existing campus. In 1999 it reopened its doors as "Westchester Academy for International Studies". The school would eventually cap at one thousand students spanning across grades 6-12th. During the 2004-05 school year, the campus was shared with Stratford, due to renovations occurring on Stratford's campus. It is notable for being the only high school in Spring Branch ISD to offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma program at grades 11 and 12, an authorized Middle Years IB Program for grades 6-10, and has been recently authorized for the IB Career-related Programme. In 2014, Westchester was ranked in the top twenty-five high schools in Houston.
In Summer 2016, Jennifer Collier stepped down as Director to take the vacant Spring Woods principal position. Kathy Menotti was named Interim Director, with Kristin Nash accepting the position as assistant director of the middle school. On October 3rd, 2016, Kathy Menotti stepped down as interim director, and was replaced by Dr. Pamela Butler, who was the school's first director.
The campus of WAIS is divided into several wings (A-E). The A Wing houses the middle school, foreign language department, and technology classes. The B Wing houses the auditorium,theatre department, cafeteria, choir department, main office, and administration offices. The C Wing house the wood gym and health classroom. The D Wing houses the rubber gym and storage areas. Lastly, the E Wing houses the upper school.
The WAIS campus is also home to the Southwest Transition Campus for elementary schools that are being rebuilt. The classes are housed in temporary buildings on the north side of the campus.
The Altharetta Yeargin Art Museum (AYAM) is an art museum funded by the Spring Branch Independent School District. It is one of the only school districts in the nation that has an art museum. The museum is housed on the north side of the campus.
WAIS was named a 2011 National Blue Ribbon School. It is one of only 304 schools nationwide to be honored for overall "academic excellence" and for success in closing student achievement gaps. Only 10 schools in Texas were named Blue Ribbon Schools in 2011.
The Japanese Language Supplementary School of Houston, a supplementary Japanese school operated by the Japanese Educational Institute (JEI), holds its classes at WAIS on Saturdays. It is for children between ages 5 and 18 who are Japanese speakers. As of 2015 the program is headed by Yoshihiko Saito (斎藤 義彦 Saitō Yoshihiko).Wes Anderson, Film director
Berkeley Breathed, Cartoonist
David Clyde, Baseball
Barbara Comstock, Congresswoman for Virginia's 10th district
Diane Pamela Wood, U.S. Court of Appeals judge
Tilman Fertitta, Entrepreneur, Landry's, etc.
Robert Draper, Author, journalist, NY Times, Rolling Stone
Justin West, Broadway Light and Set Designer
In Reba (TV series), Reba's daughter attends Westchester High School. The school mascot is the Wildcats, and was filmed in the Wilchester subdivision.