Make room, Kansas City, a new charter school has gotten permission to open in August 2019, and it's the first and only single-gender public school in the city.
The Missouri Charter Public School Commission on Wednesday approved the Kansas City Girls Preparatory Academy, whose curriculum will focus on science, technology, engineering, art and math.
The commission will be the school's sponsor, overseeing operations and academic performance. Commissioners also voted on Wednesday to take over sponsorship of DeLaSalle, an alternative charter school that was facing financial trouble. The other charter school the commission sponsors is Citizens of the World, also in Kansas City.
"There is a demand for more high performing (schools), and that's the need we are trying to fill here," said Robbyn Wahby, executive director of the commission.
Public school district supporters have accused new charter schools of oversaturating the city with schools and draining students from the Kansas City Public School District.
"Are there more available school chairs than there are children? The answer is yes," Wahby said. "But are there more high-performing seats? The answer is no."
In April, Tara Haskins, an assistant principal at KIPP Voyage Academy for Girls in Houston, was chosen to lead the new charter.
A school building has yet to be pinned down. But the school would be located in the northeast quadrant of the Kansas City district, serving students in these ZIP codes: 64108, 64109, 64120 and 64123 through 64130. A significant number of immigrant and refugee families live in those areas.
"The majority of the students in these communities are not in high-performing seats," Wahby said. "I also think there is something very special about an all girls public school. That is something that does not exist here."
The charter school is offering "a single-sex educational choice for predominantly low-income students, most of whom we believe will be the first in their families to attend college," according to the school prospectus, submitted to the commission.
It will be open to girls in sixth through 12th grades, and officials eventually expect to enroll 744 students. The school will start with 100 fifth-graders and grow one grade per year to form a fifth-through-eighth-grade middle school and a ninth-through-12th-grade high school.
Kansas City Girls Preparatory Academy is an affiliate of Young Women’s Leadership Network, a nonprofit with 17 other all-girls public schools around the country, including one in St. Louis.
At a meeting Tuesday before the commission's vote, some 50 residents, including families of potential students and representatives from area science and technology-related companies, showed "overwhelming support," for the school, Wahby said.
"There is real demand from industry to have more women in science and technology."
Doug Thaman, executive director of the Missouri Charter Public School Association, said the school's leaders can deliver "the excellent quality education" they are proposing. "This is bringing another great high school opportunity to Kansas City and gives families interested in an all-girls school an opportunity to make that choice."
Tom Krebs, the school's chief executive officer, touted its "grounding in racial and gender equity, a strong focus on social and emotional learning, and rigorous STEAM programming."
The school will next be considered by Missouri's State Board of Education, which historically has supported sponsorships.
"This last step focuses on our compliance with the requirements of state statute," Krebs said.
Currently the state board is without a quorum and cannot conduct any official business. If a charter application is not reviewed within 60 days, it is automatically approved.
The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education had put DeLaSalle Charter on the list of financially stressed schools in October for having reserve funding less than the state-mandated 3 percent of the school’s operating budget. DeLaSalle had been sponsored by the Charter School Center at University of Missouri-Kansas City.