By BOBBY HORN JR.
Going to school in the summer?
Thats exactly what fifth grade boys in the Northeast area are doing this week as a new charter school opens in the area.
The KIPP Polaris School began classes on July 9. The school is located near the post office at the corner of Tidwell and Mesa.
KIPP, says Principal Shawn Hardnett, stands for Knowledge is Power Program. The school is the second one in the Greater Houston Area.
Hardnett has also opened up a campus in California.
Initially, the school is open to only fifth graders. Hardnett said that he expects to start classes with between 60 and 70 students. Within the next few years he said that he would like to add sixth through eighth grade classes.
So how is KIPP different from traditional schools?
Hardnett said that they run things a little differently than public schools. Starting about the same times that their fellow public school classmates, KIPP students dont get out of class until 5 p.m. Also, each teacher is on call until 9 p.m. each day if his or her students have a question. Hardnett said that classes are smaller, which provides a better learning environment.
Hardnett said that appearance plays an important role in the students development. Each of our students will wear a type of uniform, something that is business-like that makes them feel good about themselves.
The vigorous academics taught at KIPP do not stop on Friday afternoon. Twice a month students return to class on Saturday.
With the school itself located in a predominately low-income part Houston, each student who attends may well fall into the category of at-risk. Hardnett said that he prefers not to use this term but rather let the community know that any student who is willing to come and put in the work is welcome.
The students are not the only ones who are asked to put in the work. Knowing the importance of an involved parent in their childs education, Hardnett requires that each student along with a parent or guardian sign a Commitment to Excellence contract promising to be an active part of their childs education.
One of the first questions that parents ask is how much will they have to pay for this enhanced education opportunity.
Nothing, says Hardnett. As a charter school they receive state funds like any other public school. Most of the student will also qualify for either free or reduced cost lunches. The others, he said, will pay a nominal fee for lunch.
Getting started wasnt easy, Hardnett said. Since January he has been out on the streets spreading the message and recruiting students. While the new concept came slowly to some, by May and June he said that he felt recruiting was strong and that people were becoming more accepting of the concept.
While the school is located within the North Forest ISD boundaries, Hardnett is quick to point out that there are no boundaries where students have to live.
We have an open enrollment, he said. We are open to any student who wants an education.
By BOBBY HORN JR.