AISD to lose nearly 1K students while charter schools report growth

Allison Ashley gets her classroom ready for a new school year at Becker Elementary. (KXAN Photo)
Allison Ashley gets her classroom ready for a new school year at Becker Elementary. (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Most Central Texas families have about two weeks until the first day of school, but two growing charter school systems in Austin start early and their enrollment is higher than ever.

Class is back in session at KIPP Austin Public Schools, a network of free, public college-prep charter schools.

Monday, they welcomed students to their new, third location in Northeast Austin. It’s an old lighting factory on Cameron Road that’s been transformed into a learning space.

“We’re super excited about this campus because it is helping us grow overall as a district,” said Choquette Hamilton, KIPP Austin’s Chief Operating Officer.

Back in 2007, KIPP Austin made a promise to the Austin community to serve 5,000 students by year 2020. They have just passed the mark four years early.

“In order to get to serving 5,600 kids we literally just needed more space,” said Hamilton.

Kipp Austin tells KXAN their students come from the following 10 local school districts:

  • Austin
  • Bastrop
  • Del Valle
  • Elgin
  • Hays
  • Hutto
  • Leander
  • Manor
  • Pflugerville
  • Round Rock

Another growing charter system in Austin is IDEA Public Schools. They will start next week with 2,300 across six campuses.

Back in May, IDEA’s executive director Larkin Tackett told KXAN they turned away 3,000 students in Central Texas due to lack of space, and proceeded to announce an expansion plan to serve 20,000 students by year 2028.

While these two local charters thrive, the Austin Independent School District knows it has an uphill battle. It will spend the next two weeks recruiting as many students as possible.

Projections for the 2016-2017 school year show a district wide enrollment of 82,829 students, which is a loss of 940 students from the previous school year.

2015 numbers 2016 projections Difference
Elementary school 45,099 44,159 -940
Middle school 16,262 16,186 -76
High school  21,202 21,278 +76
Out of district transfers 1,206 1,206 0
Total  83,769 82,829 -940

Source: AISD Projected Enrollment

The biggest hit by far is at the elementary level.

In an effort to turn the potential decline around, AISD has been spreading the word about special programs that set each campus apart.

One of the draws at Becker Elementary is dual language, where teachers like Allison Ashley teach the curriculum in both English and Spanish to help students master both languages at the same time.

“I’ve had in the past students that have transferred in from other parts of the city to come to our schools,” said Ashley, who was recently named the Region 13 Teacher of the Year. “I think it’s just such an amazing opportunity.”

She is not sure how many students will walk through her door on the first day of school, but is preparing for 20 third graders.

“You never know, you always get numbers and names but inevitably those change,” said Ashley.

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