$20M charter school proposed for Kyle

The possibility of a charter school coming to Kyle could be a reality after officials with IDEA public schools, a south Texas based charter school system, unveiled plans to build a 110,000 square-foot, $20 million campus.

Larkin Tackett, vice president of community for IDEA public schools in Austin, said Tuesday the company purchased property on Goforth Road off of Interstate 35 in Kyle.

The proposed Kyle campus, which Tackett projects will open Fall 2018, would initially house 450 students in grades Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd and 6th grade. The goal is to add 240 students every year afterward, with the school ultimately housing over 1,400 students.

“We want to serve as many students who will be the first in their families to graduate from college,” Tackett said.

IDEA, which has been in operation for almost 17 years and has over 30,000 students, has considered the Kyle area for some time, Tackett said. The charter school receives 90 percent of its funding from the state and is open to anyone who applies. Due to state law, IDEA cannot select who can attend the school, Larkin said. Students are selected to the campus via a random lottery due to the high volume of applicants, he said. 

Teachers who work at IDEA are selected after a “thorough” interview process, with the system attracting educators from the community they are serving. He added IDEA goes through a lot of training to help educators and principals prepare.

Kyle Mayor Todd Webster kick-started the discussion when he introduced at Tuesday’s council meeting an item that required his signature for bond financing documents for IDEA’s campus.

In May, IDEA held a public meeting in Austin where $220 million in bonds were issued, Cathleen Chang, bond counsel for IDEA, said Tuesday. According to city documents, the bonds won’t be a debt or liability to the city. Only $20 million would go to the Kyle campus.

Webster said the document relates to an IRS form for IDEA’s tax exempt status, which mayors where facilities are located must sign.

Webster believed IDEA wouldn’t be the last charter school that could make its way to the Kyle area. Webster said charter schools are consumer driven, and that it gives families a “high quality choice for parents and families here to choose something different” than what’s currently available.

Webster, who has spent 23 years in education and currently works as a lobbyist, said on the dais he has no ties to IDEA public school.

“The school wouldn’t be coming here through their analysis if they haven’t determined there was a sufficient number of students to populate the school,” Webster said.

Council member Shane Arabie said Tuesday he advocates for charter schools as his son is a product of a charter school education. He supported an “intense” college prepatory campus.

Council member Daphne Tenorio, however, was concerned about what she claimed was a lack of public notice of IDEA’s bond issuance. She cited a recent May 10 IDEA board meeting where $220 million in bonds were approved.

Chang said a public notice for IDEA’s bond meeting was placed into the Austin American-Statesman, which they said services Hays County and the Kyle area. Tackett said the posting was not just for property in Kyle, but also Travis County.

“I don’t read the Statesman,” Tenorio said. “I was a little surprised that we weren’t notified of this.”

Tenorio also claimed Hays CISD officials were not invited to Tuesday’s city council meeting to take in the discussion.

Tackett said he reached out to board president Merideth Keller two days ago and informed her they were approaching the community. He said IDEA would welcome an open dialogue and embraces feedback.

“We appreciate the feedback and we are committed to being transparent, from officials to the parents we serve,” Tackett said.

Tackett said IDEA is “just building” the relationship with Hays CISD and is committed to any opportunity to partner on behalf of students. While he understood concerns many have regarding charter schools, people ultimately are for good schools, “regardless of the school they’re in.”

“When adults work together, students win,” Takett said. “That’s really the principle that’s going to guide our work here.”

Correction: In our print edition, we incorrectly reported IDEA public schools can choose who can attend the schools. Per state law, IDEA cannot choose students. The system conducts a random lottery to select students, due to the number of applicants. We apologize for the error. 

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