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KIPP schools seek campus closure in Arkansas

Charter arm to ask for OK to shutter Forrest City site, send kids to Helena by Cynthia Howell | December 2, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

KIPP Delta Public Schools will ask for state permission this month to close its 4-year-old Forrest City campus at the end of this school year and send the pupils to the charter system's Helena-West Helena schools, a 45-minute bus ride away.

"Logistically, it makes sense," Scott Shirey, executive director of the KIPP Delta charter school system, said about the reorganization that would shutter the Forrest City campus. That would occur at the same time the charter system proceeds with previously made plans to add kindergarten through second grades at a KIPP school in Blytheville.

If the state's Charter Authorizing Panel, and ultimately the Arkansas Board of Education, approve closing KIPP Forrest City College Preparatory School, which is serving 97 pupils in grades five through eight, the change would go into effect with the start of the 2019-20 school year.

"We have a library and the gymnasium -- we have all the infrastructure in Helena," Shirey said.

In contrast, the Forrest City campus is a combination of space leased from a Catholic church and modular buildings.

"Really, to scale up and commit to a full K-12 system, you would have to invest millions more," Shirey said about Forrest City.

"That doesn't make sense given the numbers and given the proximity to Helena. We don't want to duplicate a whole system when we can transport kids. We already have more than 50 kids who ride a bus from Forrest City to our Helena campuses."

In addition to making Helena seats available to the KIPP pupils in Forrest City, Shirey said the KIPP Delta system will work with the staff members at the Forrest City campus to keep them employed in the charter school system.

"It's the right move," Shirey said, "so we can concentrate our efforts on running great schools. We certainly don't feel like we are abandoning the Forrest City children. Any student who is in Forrest City that we are currently serving will have automatic admission into our Helena campus if they choose."

Staff members and students' families have already been told about the plans for the 2019-20 school year, giving them plenty of notice before the end of the current school year.

"We're working very hard to leave no staff or child behind," Shirey added.

The KIPP Delta system has three schools in Helena-West Helena: Delta Elementary Literacy Academy, Delta College Preparatory and Delta Collegiate High. Delta College Preparatory, started in 2002, is the oldest school in the system.

There are two KIPP Delta campuses in Blytheville: Blytheville College Preparatory and Blytheville Collegiate High.

Blytheville College Preparatory that serves third-through-sixth grades, will add kindergarten, first grade and second grade for the 2019-20 school year. That, along with KIPP Blytheville Collegiate High School, which serves grades seven through 12, will create a complete kindergarten-through-12th-grade charter system in Blytheville

KIPP Delta has a state-approved enrollment cap of 2,600 students. That includes a cap of 1,100 charter school students in Helena-West Helena schools; 1,100 in Blytheville; and 400 in Forrest City.

KIPP Delta has improved its facilities in recent years in Helena-West Helena and Blytheville, the organization said in a news release.

In 2015, the former Beech Crest Elementary School campus was purchased from the Helena-West Helena School District. And in 2016, KIPP Delta purchased the former Central Elementary School campus from the Blytheville School District.

"We are grateful for the access to facilities and to facility funding that has enabled our schools in Blytheville and Helena to grow and thrive," Shirey said. "But without expanded facility funding and local facility options, expansion in Forrest City is not prudent."

"Ultimately, this restructuring is all about investing in our strengths, ensuring a sustainable financial model, and, most importantly, serving students in the best way we know how," Shirey said.

KIPP Delta is part of the KIPP network of college-preparatory, publicly funded charter schools.

There are 209 KIPP schools in 20 states and the District of Columbia educating nearly 100,000 students in elementary, middle and high schools.

Metro on 12/02/2018

Print Headline: KIPP schools seek campus closure in Arkansas

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