KIPP Tulsa hopes to expand to high school next school year

By Samuel Hardiman
Two KIPP Tulsa students holding a pennant that says

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North Tulsa, an area that is attracting more charter schools, could soon see another education option: KIPP Tulsa wants to expand to high school.

The charter school, which opened in Tulsa in 2005, has applied to open a high school in north Tulsa starting next school year. KIPP Tulsa is a part of the San Francisco-based Knowledge is Power Program, which operates charter schools across the U.S.

If approved by the Tulsa School Board, the high school would have an inaugural ninth-grade class of 125 students, adding one new grade each year until it reaches enrollment of about 500 across four grades.

The new school would be called KIPP Tulsa University Prep High School and be at a separate site than KIPP Tulsa College Preparatory School, which is at 1661 E. Virgin St. Where exactly it will be, if approved, is still being worked out.

“As a community, we aren’t preparing students at the level that we should to go onto college and finish high school,” said Andrew McRae, executive director of KIPP Tulsa in an interview Friday. “KIPP is committed to north Tulsa and we want to see more north Tulsa kids go to college.”

“Of all the kids that have ever come to KIPP, 77 percent of them have matriculated to college and are still there … so we know that our program works and we want the opportunity to serve more kids on the north side,” McRae said.

He said students who attend a KIPP high school and middle school go to college at a higher rate than students who just attend a KIPP middle school.

The potential addition of a charter high school in north Tulsa would add yet another high school option to an area that includes Central, Booker T. Washington and McLain high schools.

McRae said the new high school would be available to anyone within TPS. However, he said the attendance lottery will give preference to students in the north Tulsa geographic area — just as KIPP College Prep does.

Andrea Castañeda, the chief design and innovation officer for TPS, said the district isn’t worried about the potential charter high school taking students away from McLain or other schools, but the long-term impact is still unclear.

“We think about it first as 125 new seats that are opening up that are going to serve north Tulsa youth in incredible ways,” Castañeda said. “And along with that we are doing our due diligence and trying to assess and really understand the long-term impact, not just on north Tulsa — McLain and Central — but across all the city’s high schools.”

She said the school board could vote on the proposal at its Feb. 20 meeting.

A recent TPS presentation showed that most of the students who could attend McLain don’t. Many attend a magnet program such as Booker T. Washington.

TPS’ enrollment projections show McLain High School picking up 15 more students in the 2018-19 school year. The current enrollment is 639 students. It is unclear if those projections were made accounting for the potential KIPP Tulsa high school.

“KIPP Tulsa is a proven, long-term, committed partner in north Tulsa, and we’re trying to create more quality, college prep seats for kids on the north side,” McRae said. “That’s what we aspire to do, and I don’t think there’s anyone right now who would sort of mount a counterargument to that …”

“We don’t pretend to be the solution. We aren’t trying to replace McLain. We’re not trying to take over McLain.”

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