After years of working exclusively in New Orleans, KIPP, the prominent charter school network, is ready to expand to Louisiana’s capital city. The group is among 10 applicants seeking to launch charter schools in Baton Rouge in time for the 2020-21 school year.
If all 10 applications were to be approved by the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, they would eventually enroll as many as 14,000 children, tripling the number of children currently in charter schools in Baton Rouge.
Short for Knowledge is Power Program, KIPP operated 224 schools across the country, including including 11 in New Orleans.
The organization first considered starting a school in Baton Rouge in 2001, but withdrew its bid after resistance from local school board members who wanted the group to take over an existing school in town rather than start a new school.
Thirty-five organizations submitted applications to start about 100 new charter schools in 19 parishes in Louisiana, the state Department of E…
In August 2013, KIPP won a state-issued charter to open multiple schools Baton Rouge in facilities that are controlled by the state, but the group never ended up exercising the charter.
In its latest application, KIPP seeks to start two elementary schools and one high school, which would open in 2020 and 2021. They say they'd start with about 800 students total and could grow to serve nearly 3,000 students over time.
Three of the latest applicants already run schools in Baton Rouge and want to expand: BASIS, CSAL and Helix Community Schools, the nonprofit that runs Mentorship Academy.
Another applicant, Louisiana Connections Academy, used to run a virtual school of the same name in Baton Rouge. The school was an arm of Columbia, Md.-based Connections Education, a division of textbook giant Pearsons, until 2017 when its local board severed its ties with the company, hired its own staff and changed the school's name to University View Academy.
The other five applicants are newcomers seeking to start their first charter schools. The new schools, if approved, would be called Auspice Academy, Bellissimo Beginnings, Carmouche Performing Arts Academy, Kennedy Elementary Charter School and Xcel Technical Academy.
Those applying had to do so by a March 1 deadline. The school system recently provided electronic copies of the lengthy applications and their many appendices for the Advocate to review.
Charter schools are public schools run privately via charters, or contracts.
The school system has contracts with 10 charter schools. Seventeen more charter schools in Baton Rouge have contracts with the state, while two others operate in Baker, just north of Baton Rouge. They collectively educate about 7,000 children in Baton Rouge.
On Thursday, the School Board hired Katie Blunschi, a former school administrator in Baton Rouge, to review charter school applications for the fourth consecutive year. She is paid $2,300 per application to do the work.
The board is tentatively planning to consider Blunschi’s recommendations at meetings on May 9 and May 13. Those rejected can appeal their denials to the state.
KIPP, which opened its first schools in 1995, made a name for itself by creating high performing middle schools. They focused on amping up the time devoted to the instruction of children who were falling behind in school.
Consequently, KIPP teachers worked much longer than their peers in traditional public schools. They would even give out their cell phones so students could contact them after hours if they had questions about an assignment. There was also Saturday school and longer school years.
KIPP, though, has evolved and now runs elementary and high schools, not just middle schools. Its proposed Baton Rouge charter schools have them starting out with three elementary grades, but also one middle and one high school grade. The schools wouldn’t offer all grade levels until 2023.
KIPP Baton Rouge schools would have a school day lasting about an hour longer than traditional public schools in town, but would otherwise follow a normal school calendar for the year.
Like many of the applicants, it’s unclear from the applications where KIPP plans to open its three schools. KIPP’s proposed budget sets aside no money for rent or for construction. It could lease property from the parish school system, but school officials have been reluctant to do that in recent years, leading most charter school to hunt for their own facilities.
Attempts to reach officials with KIPP New Orleans on Friday to discuss its application were unsuccessful.
Private organizations are asking the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board to give its blessing to eight charter schools, ranging from a school…
BASIS, fresh off opening a school this year next to Woman’s Hospital, is moving quickly to expand, saying it already has hundreds of children on its waiting list for next year.
“Our decision to propose a second site in Baton Rouge is driven by demand from parents that we are unable to meet with our current seat capacity,” the group says in its application.
The group, which is based in Scottsdale, Arizona, operates 27 schools. It made a name for itself when its high schools began topping "best-of" high school lists.
Its initial Baton Rouge school has almost 400 students in kindergarten to fourth grade. It will eventually expand all the way to 12th grade.
Its second Baton Rouge school — no potential location is mentioned — would start with 450 students and stop at sixth grade. It would eventually have as many as 1,000 students in K-12, mirroring the makeup of its first school.
BASIS Schools have been criticized elsewhere for not educating many children from poor backgrounds or students suffering from disabilities. BASIS pledged in its contract to recruit more children from poor backgrounds to comply with a state law requiring charter schools to mirror the socio-economics of their school districts that grant them charters.
Its Baton Rouge school is more diverse than other schools in the network, but less diverse than other Baton Rouge schools.
For instance, about 34 percent of the students at BASIS’ Baton Rouge qualify for public assistance programs, better than the 20 percent of such children it initially thought it would attract. Still, that’s far less than the 76 percent of children in the parish school system and 69 percent of the public schoolchildren in Louisiana who qualify for such programs, a category known as “economically disadvantaged.”
In its proposal for a new school, BASIS, sets its target for such children at just 10 percent, a target far below the targets of the other charter school applicants the school system is considering.
CSAL and Heli are popular, locally based charter school groups seeking to expand, both citing parent demand.
CSAL — that stands for Community School for Apprenticeship Learning — opened in 1997 with a middle school, later adding a popular high school and an online school to its network.
Its proposed new elementary school would start with about 175 students in grades kindergarten to two and expand over time. In 2023, the school would add a fifth grade and stop there, with as many as 480 students.
Helix Community Schools opened its lone school, Mentorship Academy, in downtown Baton Rouge in 2010. That school has about 500 students.
It’s proposing to dramatically expand its network. A new K-8 school, called Mentorship Legal Academy, would be a feeder into the downtown high school.
The K-12 school, Helix Aviation Academy, would have an elementary and high school on the same campus. Both schools would start with about 120 sixth-graders each. By 2026, they could enroll as many as 3,200 students overall.