Kyle charter school clears first hurdle

The path toward a charter school opening in Kyle moved ahead Tuesday when Planning and Zoning commissioners recommended approval of two conditional use permits (CUP) for the first phase of the campus.

One CUP, recommended by a 5-0 vote, allows IDEA Public Schools to open on property currently zoned commercial (C-1) located at the intersection of Goforth Road near Bluestem. A second CUP, also recommended by a 5-0 vote, allows the construction of the first phase of the project. P&Z commissioner Dex Ellison was absent from the meeting.

Will Atkinson, Kyle city planner, said, according to zoning regulations, commercial zoning doesn’t allow for schools unless a CUP is approved by the city council.

Atkinson said Kyle city staff felt the charter school is compatible with the existing environment. City staff cited the existing Prairie on the Creek subdivision, as well as the rebuilt Goforth Road. He said the school could create a buffer between homes in the Prairie on the Creek subdivision and Interstate 35.

If approved by the city council, the city would be required to do a traffic impact analysis in the area.

The first phase of the proposed IDEA campus would encompass a 74,189 square-foot, two story facility. The second phase, which IDEA would have to return with separate CUPs to P&Z at a later date, would call for a roughly 25,000 square foot facility. The campus would initially house grades Kinder through 2nd grades and 6th grade. Eventually, the school would house 1,400 total students from kindergarten to high school. (courtesy rendering)

“We understand any school or massive project would generate more traffic in the area,” Atkinson said. “We want to study and have the best way to get cars in and out of there in the most efficient manner possible.”

In June, Larkin Tackett, vice president of community for IDEA public schools, unveiled plans to the Kyle City Council for their proposed $20 million, 110,000 square foot facility.

Tackett said ground up development of new IDEA campuses takes place 90 percent of the time for the south Texas based charter school system. Only the Austin location, which opened in a vacant building that once housed a bowling alley, is the exception.

He added the campus would be a cutting edge facility with “all of the latest learning technology” and access to soccer fields and play area.

“Our students need to be well-rounded individuals,” Tackett said.

Staff also said the campus met the city’s Interstate 35 Overlay standards. Atkinson said the facility’s brick, blue and gray accents, “breaks up the monotony of a large massive building.”

Tackett said the IDEA design team worked closely with the city and tried to make sure the building is consistent with what “the community wants to see along I-35.”

“We’re very nitpicky. We want to make sure it looks good,” Atkinson said. “It looks pretty good.”

Timothy Kay, Kyle P&Z chair person, said IDEA’s proposal is a good project and that he was excited about it.

Pete Oppel, P&Z seat 1, said he advocated for charter schools based on what they produce and it could “go a long way to raising the educational standards in the area.”

“Anything that provides an educational product, I think the community should support,” Oppel said. “The kids are our future and we should give them every educational opportunity that we can. Charter schools offer another opportunity for our schools.”

Oppel also wanted to add a stipulation to approve further expansion as long as it complied with the city’s architectural standards. However, Oppel’s motion to include that stipulation failed on the dais.

P&Z commissioner Jo Fenity, however, said on the dais she didn’t want to bind future city leaders with that stipulation.

While Oppel said there have been bad charter schools, he cited IDEA’s rankings, which he believed set a high standard.

Tackett said IDEA now plans to further work with the city as the CUP moves to the city council for a vote.

“We are really looking forward to being a great neighbor. We know we have to earn that,” Tackett said. “We are here to partner, to listen and to make sure the school is an asset to the community.”

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