After months of debate, board members of Oklahoma City Public Schools voted to expand KIPP Charter Schools at Monday night’s meeting. But the expansion will not go as originally planned.
KIPP currently runs a middle school out of F.D. Moon Academy, and has been fighting to extend its rigorous academic model within the district. The charter school proposed starting an elementary school in Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary and hoped to share space with Douglass High School as well. However, Superintendent Aurora Lora says a task force will do more research to decide the locations.
“Whether it’s their own separate building, or a building that’s vacant,” Lora said. “It’ll be somewhere in the northeast [part of the city], but not necessarily where they were hoping.”
The district has broken the approved expansion plan in to three phases:
- Starting this school year, KIPP’s current middle school students will move out of F.D. Moon Academy and co-locate with Martin Luther King Jr. students. Superintendent Lora said this does not mean KIPP’s elementary school will go there.
- 2017-2018: KIPP Elementary School to open (site to be determined).
- 2018-2019: KIPP High School to open (site to be determined).
The district is creating a Northeast Oklahoma City Community Task Force to explore different site options and consider consolidating OKCPS schools in the northeast quadrant. Possible KIPP Elementary site recommendations will be proposed to the Board of Education in September, and high school site recommendations will be proposed in December.
Lora said she supports parents' rights to choose the best education for their kids, but decided to revise the KIPP proposal after seeing opposition to the plan.
“One of the things I’ve heard loud and clear from families is that there needs to be more support for neighborhood schools,” Ora said.
Nichelle Garcia, an OKCPS parent, said she didn’t have a problem with KIPP itself, but said if KIPP wants to expand they should get their own building and not take over a neighborhood school.
“We aren’t anti-KIPP,” Garcia said during public comment, “We’re pro MLK. We’re pro-Douglass.”
Former OKCPS teacher John Thompson praised Lora for listening to community members.
“In February, when this debate began, it was clear that the people who wanted to convert to charters. They were not listening,” Thompson said. “They weren’t listening to families, they weren’t listening to teachers. They were making their decisions based on an ideology. But Aurora [Lora] listened.”
But John Prough, a father of two in the district who’s opposed to the expansion, said the revised plan just kicks the decision further down the road.
The principal of KIPP, Tracey McDaniel, said he was very happy with the revised plan.
“This will give us time to do more research, and travel, and study what will make successful high schools and elementary schools,” he said.