New charter school opens, others swap spaces

August 31, 2012
By

PARKSIDE—A new public charter school, KIPP Boston Middle School, has just opened at 215 Forest Hill St., sharing a building with the Match Charter Public Middle School.

The Match Charter Public Middle School has just relocated to 215 Forest Hills St. from 86 Wachusett St., in a building swap with NAtch’s elementary school, which opened last year.

The Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) school system is a national network of free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory public schools. There are two KIPP schools in Lynn, but this is the first to open in Boston.

“Given our track record of success in Lynn as well as nationally, Boston was, of course, a city we were interested in being in,” KIPP Chief Development Officer Jennifer Parkos said.

The school opened Aug. 20, with 72 fifth-graders. It will eventually expand to include sixth, seventh and eighth grades, likely in a new building.

The KIPP and Match charter schools are sharing the building because school facility space is hard to come by, Parkos said.

The KIPP school opened its doors this year with only a fraction of its expected complete student population. It’s starting only with a “founding class,” which allows the students to grow into the next grade while the school only accepts younger students.

“Match was in the same situation and they had some room available,” Parkos said.

The Match school, the building’s owner, will eventually grow to occupy the whole building. The KIPP school would then be relocated, ideally, permanently, to Mattapan, Parkos said.

Charter schools have garnered critics who say the schools “cherry-pick” the best students who apply, leaving any special-needs student to the Boston Public School (BPS) system.

“Charter schools have the right to cherry-pick students,” Boston Teachers Union President Richard Stutman said. “Kids with disabilities and [language limitations] are not generally welcomed at charter schools.”

“That’s a misconception,” Parkos said. KIPP students are chosen from a “totally blind lottery” for the slots available, and the new middle school has at least two English Language Learners (ELL) staffers to assist non-native English speakers, Parkos said.

“Our goal is to serve the same population as the district schools in the communities we serve,” Parkos added.

Parkos could not immediately provide a tally of how many special needs or ELL students the KIPP school has.

KIPP has longer school days—7 a.m. to 5 p.m.—and a longer school year than BPS schools.

“We’re not sitting in a classroom all day. It’s a complete program. It’s filled with a lot of fun,” Parkos said. “Our kids need a lot of support,” like tutoring, that they may not get at home, she explained.

The Parkside Christian Academy, which occupied the Forest Hills Street building until 2011, is now based in Hyde Park.