Monday, October 22, 2007

Charter school plans to open nine Austin campuses

KIPP Austin hoping to build on success by serving more students.

By Raven L. Hill
Thursday, October 18, 2007

An East Austin charter school is launching a $4.6 million expansion plan that will add nine schools in as many years.

KIPP Austin College Prep's plan will bring the enrollment to more than 5,000 students in kindergarten through high school by 2016. The charter school received money from the Charter School Growth Fund in Colorado.

KIPP Austin, which stands for the Knowledge Is Power Program, currently has 360 children in the fifth through eighth grades, mostly African American and Hispanic students from families with low incomes.

"Our mission is to get kids on track for success in four-year universities," said Jill Kolasinski, KIPP Austin's founder and chief executive officer.

KIPP Austin pulls students from five school districts: Austin, Del Valle, Manor, Pflugerville and Round Rock. It hopes to open five schools at its current location and others across the city, adding a grade a year, Kolasinski said.

The school, housed at the former Travis State School on FM 969 near Decker Lane, is part of a growing national network of KIPP academies, started by two Houston teachers in 1994.

The Houston chain plans to expand from eight to 42 schools in the next decade under a $100 million plan. Nationwide, the 57-school KIPP network expects to expand to 100 campuses.

Known for offering a longer school day and week, small classes and teachers who take homework questions at all hours, KIPP academies are frequently lauded as examples of quality charter schools.

KIPP Austin previously announced plans to open a high school with 90 ninth-graders, adding a grade each year through a $700,000 grant from the Texas High School Project, a consortium of public and private groups.

After deciding to open the high school, KIPP Austin officials said, they realized that they could better serve students with more resources and more campuses, Kolasinski said.

About 150 students are on the waiting list for admission.

Officials said that they have successfully appealed an "academically unacceptable" rating the campus received in August for special education students' performance and that since opening in 2002, the campus has been rated "academically acceptable."

Kolasinski said the grant money will also allow the school to decrease its focus on fundraising.

"Employees won't always be in startup mode," she said.

Austin school district officials said they plan to remain competitive. The district's enrollment is expected to reach up to 101,329 students in the next decade.

The district opened an all-girls academy this year and has been exploring the possibility of a boys school as well. A districtwide high school reform effort is under way as officials try to enhance specialized and magnet programs.

"We're going to keep doing everything that we can to provide a diverse, effective, meaningful education that prepares our kids for productive, well-paying jobs," district spokesman Andy Welch said.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, my name is Steven Epstein and I’m the principal of KIPP Austin. As you’re aware, we announced recently that we’ve received a generous grant from the Charter School Growth Fund which will significantly aid us in our expansion plans for KIPP Austin. This is a very exciting time for us, especially as we prepare to open our high school next fall.

    As Jill pointed out in her comments, we need to move from startup mode to sustained operations as KIPP Austin launches its own school system. And while fundraising won’t be as critical to the day to day operations as it was when we started, we absolutely will need to raise money to start new programs, build out our facilities and prepare for the future. In fact, the Charter School Growth Fund will challenge KIPP Austin to match its donation over the period of the grant, and we’ll be expected to meet certain milestones.

    With regards to the appeal of our accountability rating, I want to stress that we take the accountability classifications developed by the state very seriously. Although our special education population is very small, we have put new measures in place this year to ensure we are doing an equally good job to prepare those students for college as the other 93 percent of our student body. Although we are rated “Academically Acceptable” for 2007, I can tell you that none of our faculty and staff are satisfied with this rating. We aspire to be an exceptional institution today and in the future as we grow.

    Steven J. Epstein