Atlanta school board renews KIPP charter schools, leases in 5-4 vote

 

The Atlanta school board -- by the thinnest of margins -- voted Monday to renew its authorization of charter schools run by KIPP Metro Atlanta and agreed to new leases for use of district buildings. 

KIPP’s charter expires June 30, but Monday’s 5-4 school board vote allows the network of charter schools to continue to operate for another five years. 

The vote also authorizes a 40-year lease of the former Turner Middle School for continued use by KIPP Atlanta Collegiate and a five-year lease to allow KIPP Soul to move into the former Blalock Elementary School. 

Board members Leslie Grant, Nancy Meister, Jason Esteves, Eshe’ Collins and Kandis Wood voted in favor of the KIPP charter renewal and leases. Board members Byron Amos, Cynthia Briscoe Brown, Erika Mitchell and Michelle Olympiadis voted no. 

The school board also unanimously approved five-year charter renewals for two other schools it authorizes -- Atlanta Classical Academy and Centennial Academy.

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KIPP will be able to enroll up to 4,550 students in grades kindergarten through 12th grade in multiple schools by the end of its new, five-year contract. That’s significantly more than Centennial’s enrollment cap of 800 students or Atlanta Classical’s cap of 700. Some advocates of the district’s traditional, neighborhood schools have expressed concern about how charter school growth will effect enrollment and funding of neighborhood schools.

Mitchell requested the board vote separately on the KIPP proposal instead of voting on all three charter school renewals at once.  

She expressed concerns about the process KIPP went through and the use of the Blalock location in northwest Atlanta as a KIPP school.

“And also there were several other community concerns about KIPP coming into the Douglass cluster as well,” Mitchell said. 

Last December, the prior school board voted 6-3 to allow KIPP Soul to open this school year in the former Walter White Elementary School on Detroit Avenue N.W. That lease is only for one year.

The Blalock lease will be for five years, plus optional renewals. District officials said that the location has received support from the neighborhood planning unit and Atlanta City Council member Andrea Boone.

For KIPP Atlanta Collegiate, the charter operator plans a $12 million upgrade of the Turner building at 98 Anderson Ave. N.W. to provide a larger cafeteria and more classroom and office space, according to district documents. 

KIPP requested a long lease “given the sizable investment” it would make in APS property.

The lease includes provisions to protect the school district’s interest and limit financial liability in case KIPP loses its charter or defaults on financing, according to APS. 

In accordance with state law, the charter schools will not pay rent for using the district buildings. 

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