In The News

Nash Elementary students discover ice skating at Fort Worth’s outdoor rink

by SARAH BAHARI | Nov 21, 2014

Arms outstretched, friends Anesia James and Jercarra Hughes spun in tight circles, gliding across the ice.

“It’s OK if you fall,” said Anesia, 10, sharing a piece of wisdom she picked up on the ice. “You shouldn’t be embarrassed because everybody falls sometimes.”

“The ice makes you feel graceful, like a ballerina,” Jercarra added.

On Thursday, the friends and about 100 of their classmates from Charles Nash Elementary School in Fort Worth laced up ice skates and took a spin at Panther Island Ice, Fort Worth’s only outdoor ice skating rink. The rink opens to the public Friday.

Panther Island invited the third-, fourth- and fifth-graders to a sneak peek of the rink as a reward for the school’s recent recognition as a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. Nash, just northeast of the city’s downtown, was the only school in Tarrant County and one of 25 statewide to receive the designation in 2014.

Schools are given the award based on their overall academic excellence or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups, according to the Education Department. At Nash, 82 percent of students are economically disadvantaged, records show, and about 38 percent are English language learners.

For most of the students, this was their first time to ice skate, said Duy Nguyen, who teaches math and science to fifth-graders.

“Our staff and students work so hard every year,” Nguyen said. “All of the kids were excited for this opportunity. They deserve it.”

Rosemary Martinez, 10, a fifth-grader, inched slowly toward the ice, feeling a little wobbly on her skates. Within a couple of minutes, though, she felt at ease. Rosemary said her classmates help each other at school and on the ice.

“In math class, we don’t leave anyone behind. We all help each other along the way,” Rosemary said. “It’s the same way when we’re skating. We all helped each other.”

This is the second year for Panther Island, which is next to the Coyote Drive-In. The rink, 90 by 44 feet, is 50 percent bigger than last year, and the season will run two weeks longer, through Jan. 19.

To keep the ice cold enough, about 22 degrees, a 150-pound chiller runs 24 hours a day, said Shanna Cate, programming manager for the Trinity River Vision Authority, which hosts Panther Ice.

Last year, the rink drew more than 16,000 skaters, and Cate said Trinity River expects the same this season.

“This is an authentic experience,” Cate said. “A lot of families and friends came out here and started a new holiday tradition.”