Along with building the school, which would include a medical clinic, KIPP DC is promising to renovate or rebuild Randall’s swimming pool, its playing fields and the recreation center. KIPP DC initially said it would operate the clinic in partnership with Georgetown University; MedStar Georgetown University Hospital officials said Tuesday that they are in preliminary talks about such a partnership, but no agreement has been finalized.
The nonprofit organization, which has won wide admiration among philanthropists and government officials for its record of preparing poor children for college, would finance the $40 million project privately. There is also an ambitious timeline: KIPP hopes to break ground within a few months so it can open doors to students by summer 2014.
“KIPP DC is always going to operate with a sense of urgency, because we’re on the front lines of trying to educate our city’s kids and reach as many kids as we can,” chief executive Susan Schaeffler said.
Although city officials generally said they would encourage the addition of a high-performing high school, the location has sparked concerns from city and community leaders who worry that it would exclude neighborhood children and conflict with development slated for an adjacent parcel of private property.
The debate illustrates challenges that charter schools face as they seek room to grow. Meanwhile, the city is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to renovate traditional high schools that are struggling to retain students. KIPP DC considered moving into a closed D.C. public school facility, but officials didn’t find any of them suitable.
“This is Exhibit A as to what happens when there’s no facilities planning with regard to public education,” said D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At Large), chairman of the education committee, who said he supports KIPP DC’s proposal because the city needs more good schools.
KIPP DC’s sole high school, in Southeast, enrolls about 400 students and can’t grow unless it moves. The organization educates about 3,000 students on three city campuses. A fourth campus is under construction. But the organization aims to serve 5,000 students by 2017, and it needs more space to expand, Schaeffler said.
(The chairman and chief executive of The Washington Post Co., Donald E. Graham, serves on KIPP DC’s board of trustees.)
KIPP DC would like to sign a 50-year lease for the 8.5-acre Randall site, including terms specifying that the rebuilt community center, pool and fields would remain open for public use, said general counsel Alex Shawe.