KIPP, Santa Fe South to open charter sites on south side

ByTim Willert
Staircase at Santa Fe South High School

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A pair of charter school programs looking to fill a need will extend their reach on Oklahoma City’s south side starting this week.

Santa Fe South Schools, a K-12 charter with multiple locations, is set to open a new high school building Thursday on the grounds of the former Crossroads Mall.

About 950 students in grades nine through 12 — about 250 more students than attended the high school last year — are expected to occupy 80,000 square feet inside the former Montgomery Ward building on the northeast side of the mall.

“We thought it would take us about three years to reach that (number),” Superintendent Chris Brewster said. “We’re going to be fairly close to that number on the first day.”

Santa Fe South is leasing the 157,000-square-foot building, which underwent several months of renovation.

“Ultimately, it honors and shows respect to our community of learners,” Brewster said of the new site. “They’ve been in sub-standard space for the past 16 years, so we are absolutely thrilled that our community is going to have a high-quality academic space created just for them.”

Students, parents and community members can tour the new high school location, 6921 Plaza Mayor Blvd., from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Brewster said.

Additionally, Santa Fe South is opening a fourth elementary school. Spero Academy will include children who attended the former Lighthouse Academy in south Oklahoma City.

Lighthouse closed its doors in April after two years because of financial challenges, officials announced at the time.

Zoning issues prevented Lighthouse from leasing space at Plaza Mayor for the 2015-16 school year, but the school found a home when Brewster agreed to provide space.

Also expanding is KIPP Oklahoma City, which operates a successful middle school on the northeast side. KIPP OKC South Community Prep will open Aug. 21 to approximately 105 fourth-graders inside Western Hills Baptist Church, 401 SW 44.

“We really focus on providing a rigorous curriculum for our students to be able to excel on the path to college,” she said.

Wheeler said KIPP’s record of academic success is a good fit for south Oklahoma City, where schools are overcrowded.

“Parents just wanted more quality options,” she said.

KIPP is renovating about 35,000 square feet of space on the second floor of the same building as Santa Fe South at Plaza Mayor and could relocate the new school before the end of the 2017-18 school year, said Tracy McDaniel, executive director of KIPP Oklahoma City.

“I’m excited for KIPP and to offer more quality seats for Oklahoma City kids,” he said.

A year ago, McDaniel was negotiating on behalf of KIPP Reach College Preparatory with Oklahoma City Public Schools to occupy space at Martin Luther King Elementary.

The proposal was approved by the school board in July 2016 while a task force determined where KIPP should open an elementary school and high school.

That didn’t happen, however, and McDaniel, who had sought to expand by adding 600 seats at MLK, set his sights elsewhere.

“I’ve spent all my time focusing on this new school,” he said. “We moved on.”

McDaniel, however, said KIPP is still looking to add two elementary schools and two high schools over the next five years — one each on the city’s northeast side.

“It’s just the beginning,” he said.