Last week, the Board of Zoning Adjust- ment approved plans for KIPP DC to build the second phase of their charter school development at 4801 Benning Road, SE. Phase one, which started construction last March, is set to finish this April, allowing phase two to begin shortly thereafter. Both phases were designed by a joint venture architectural team: Studio 27 and Devrouax and Purnell.
KIPP stands for Knowledge Is Power Programs, and is self described as being "a network of free open-enrollment college preparatory public schools in under-resourced communities throughout the United States." KIPP DC is part of the larger national network; the charter school currently operates on four campuses in the District: AIM, LEAP, KEY and WILL academies. The charter school is aiming to reach more kids on their own turf. Real Estate Director Alex Shawe explains: "The simplest answer is that KIPP DC is one of the highest performing public schools in the entire District, and it's important to have a campus that's located near where the majority of our students actually live. And it's also important for those students to have a facility that matches our high expectations of academic performance."
The total plan will create two schools for KIPP, a 56,000 s.f. elementary school which can hold up to 600 students, and the recently approved 29,000 s.f. middle school, which can hold up to 320 studious youngsters. The school's new home is a 51,000 s.f. site which used to house the old Benning supermarket, now demolished. Construction of the new schools is so far privately funded, though it is anticipated that tax exempt bonds will be issued in the Spring to help finance the project. Forrester Construction is building the facilities; KIPP plans to be finished with the entire development by February of 2009.
But don't think that this new school will give your kids a better shot at getting in; KIPP is already at capacity this year. The new campus is going to allow KEY and LEAP academies to move out of their leased space and into a permanent home. KEY, for fifth through eighth graders, currently enrolls 320 students, LEAP will eventually house pre-kindergarten to fourth graders. KIPP claims that in a 2005 Stanford verbal and math test, KIPP students scored in the 92nd and 71st percentiles, respectively; local neighborhood school students scored an worrying 22% and 21%. In that same year, incoming fifth graders scored an average of 31% on a math test; in the Spring those test scores rocketed to 94%.