Uplift Education, North Texas’ largest charter network, will continue to expand in 2014 when it opens a new primary and middle school in the First Baptist Church located in downtown Grand Prairie. The charter network closed on the 114,537 square foot property on Dec. 3 for $4.6 million.
Uplift currently serves 9,600 students and will add 389 with the expansion. The new Grand Prairie school will open to serve grades kindergarten through second, and sixth and seventh grade. Each year a grade will be added until the school reaches a full K-12 campus with more than 1,100 students.
Yasmin Bhatia, Uplift’s CEO, has been guiding the network through this period of rapid expansion. She recently spoke to a group of Grand Prairie residents and community and school leaders at a community summit held by Uplift Education. She shared the two principles on which Uplift is built—All children can learn; and all children deserve the opportunity to attend college and decide how they want to use their skills and talents.
“Grand Prairie was of interest to us because of the great work already being done inside Grand Prairie ISD to provide choice to families. The response of families in this community had been very active in in selecting the best school for their child. We want to be another option for those families.”
Uplift’s priority is to provide high-quality college preparatory education that empowers each student to reach their highest potential in college and beyond.
“I know that Uplift does not have the capacity to educate every single student in North Texas, so when we are able to come into an area that is already doing great things the result is a big step forward in spreading the word about school choice. Every family has the right to advocate for their children and choose a high-quality education and with our wait list growing every year, we know there is a demand for Uplift schools” she said.
Uplift’s currently has 17,000 students on a wait list for its 28 schools. Last year, Uplift opened Uplift Triumph with kindergarten through second grade in the Bachman Lake area of Dallas. Students at Uplift Triumph study all the basic subjects such as math and reading but also experience music and technology through a blended learning program.
With the purchase of the church, Uplift acquired four buildings covering 4.9 acres. In the first year, the school will share the space with members of the First Baptist Church until the congregation moves into its new location. Pastor Bill Skaar said that both he and his congregation are excited about the future of the church as well and the future of the current location being repurposed for educational use.
“I am thrilled that Uplift is coming to Grand Prairie and believe that Uplift will be a great addition to the downtown area with a campus here and will make a positive impact of the lives of many students and their families,” he added.
Plans for a new building to be put on site are in progress with renovations on the current site scheduled for 2014. Funding for the purchase and renovation is being provided through a capital grant from the Harold Simmons Foundation and Hamon Foundation, which last year committed a collective $17 million over the next four years to help start new schools. In January, Uplift also sold more than $52 million in bonds to support the network’s expansion plans. Uplift’s goal is to enroll at least 13,000 North Texas students annually by 2015.