Three charter schools are enrolling students this summer before opening their doors for the first time in August.
Two schools will be run by longtime charter operators in St. Louis, while a third is being opened by young Teach For America alumni.
Charter schools are independently run public schools that receive public funds to operate. In Missouri, they’re allowed to operate only in St. Louis and Kansas City. There are now 34 charter schools in St. Louis.
Lift For Life Academy — the city’s oldest charter school — will add an elementary school to its middle and high school offering. And KIPP St. Louis, a national chain of charter schools, is adding a third elementary school. Kairos Academies will open a new middle school, which will eventually grow to include high school grades.
It's been a busy summer for charter schools despite the slowing growth in St. Louis. The number of students enrolled in charters in St. Louis is growing slightly, while the city's overall public school-attending student population is not.
Lift For Life’s elementary school will be down the street from its current campus in the Kosciusko neighborhood. It will start with grades kindergarten through second grade. Executive Director Marshall Cohen hopes to enroll 120 children for August.
Right now, Cohen said, the students coming into Lift For Life’s middle school come from many different schools.
“We’re doing a lot of extra help to get the kids caught up” and used to Lift For Life’s model, Cohen said.
The elementary will allow them to start with kids sooner.
“I think it’s going to be easier going down than it was adding a high school back in the day,” he said.
KIPP has reached its growth target by opening the sixth school in its portfolio. It purchased a building in the Marine Villa neighborhood from St. Louis Language Immersion School, which is consolidating its facilities into a single building downtown.
“The beauty of this one is it’s also in a neighborhood. We definitely believe in connecting to community and neighborhood assets,” said KIPP Executive Director Kelly Garrett.
Garrett said that they’re enrolling about 100 kindergarteners this year and that the school will eventually educate students up to fourth grade. KIPP also operates a middle school and a high school.
“There are kids still looking for places to go to school,” Garrett said of the demand to open another school.
Kairos Academies is enrolling sixth-graders for its personalized learning-themed middle and high school opening in the Marine Villa neighborhood. It’s the only entirely new school opening in August. Founders Gavin Schiffres and Jack Krewson are Teach For America alumni who taught briefly in north St. Louis County districts. Krewson is the son of St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson.
St. Louis College Prep closed in May after it wound up in financial trouble mid-year following revelations of possible attendance inflation by its founder and executive director. Lafayette Preparatory Academy, a nearby elementary school, tried to step in and purchase the building to add its own high school. The deal to purchase the building fell through and plans for a high school have been postponed, according to Susan Marino, Lafayette Prep’s executive director.
The Soulard School, which had been a private school in south St. Louis, is converting to a charter school this fall.
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