Success Preparatory Academy charter school leaders are actively trying to attract new students and add a seventh-grade in 2013-14.
The only issue is that they’re not certain whether the current school building will be able to hold them all.
Lower School Principal Niloy Gangopadhyay told the board at its Feb. 14 meeting that Success Prep currently has 460 students and staff members. If the school’s maximum capacity is 487, as one estimate holds, the school would have difficulty expanding grades and student enrollment.
“I’m hoping the 487 (total) is incorrect, and that (occupancy) is really much higher,” Gangopadhyay said. He said he would give the board the final figures at its March meeting in enough time to begin budget planning for next year.
The open-floor plan of Success Prep’s building, at 2011 Bienvielle, means walls don’t completely separate classrooms; partitions do. It’s been a challenge to find more space for everybody as the school expands to more students and more grades.
Architect Shawn Preau, an associate at Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, reported that maximum occupancy is generally one person for every 20 square feet of space. The number of exits in a building can also affect capacity. The building was constructed in the 1970’s, and Gangopadhyay said he hasn’t gotten a definitive answer about what the capacity was when it was originally built.
Gangopadhyay said he hopes to have an exact number in March — one that the school can pass along to the Recovery School District as the number of open spots for new students.
“If we give the district a number, they’re going to fill those spots,” Gangopadhyay said. “Depending on building capacity, I think we’ll hover around 88 to 90 percent retention of our (current) students.”
Gangopadhyay reported that kindergarten and first-grade students dipped in their targeted assessment scores for the first time in six testing sessions since the beginning of the year.
“I was shocked,” Gangopadhyay said. “The performance didn’t match where we wanted it to be, especially compared to last year.”
He said projected scores on assessment tests were below the target for both math and English for the kindergarten students.
“It was an eye-opener after nine weeks to see that results weren’t as high as they need to be,” Gangopadhyay said. “Part of it might be that we have new students in first grade, and three people on the (staffing) team who are brand new to kindergarten and new to teaching.”
He said teachers met for a day-long training to discuss how to raise these scores and discuss why they were lower than expected. He said he is confident the scores will rise by the end of the year.
“I have no doubt we’ll see in the next testing [results more aligned] to the year before; and [in] the final five weeks, we’ll hit our goals,” Gangopadhyay said. “If you ask me if I’m worried, the answer is ‘No.’”
A bright spot in the lower school is that the school’s second graders exceeded their previous assessment numbers, Gangopadhyay said.
In upper school, 70 percent of sixth-graders scored 60 percent or higher on language arts than they did in the beginning of the school year, results that are among the highest scores among the 37 charter schools in the city, according to Upper School Principal St. Claire Adriaan.
Fifth grade math scores have also gone up. Fifth-grade English Language Arts is still the school’s primary focus, Adriaan said. Board member Jack Carey was tasked at the meeting at looking into Success Prep’s student scores compared to other charter schools in the city.
Regarding recruiting more students for next year, Adriaan said it’s been a challenge to attract students to the new middle school grades, since many want extracurricular activities that Success Prep doesn’t offer, such as a marching band, flag team or dance team.
He said school administrators are encouraging parents to fill out applications anyway, so they will be guaranteed a spot next year.
The school has sent out letters to parents, offered incentives such as gift cards at admission events, held pizza parties and has placed advertisements on city buses, Gangopadhyay reported.
While the school isn’t working as hard towards kindergarten enrollment because of a steady registration, the administration will still stay on top of recruitment, Gangopadhyay said.
Open staff positions for 2013-14 include one elementary school teacher and one middle school teacher. The school is extending its seventh grade.
Board members noted that several current teachers are staying beyond their required two years through Teach For America.
Following up on increased security after the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., Gangopadhyay said after speaking with the school’s security company, it will cost $3,000 to give all staff members a key fob to swipe to get into the building. The company said they won’t be able to install it for two months, however, because it is backed up with other school security projects.
In other board business, Finance Director Dan O’Connell said the school hit its projected numbers on money that it was getting per student, and that the school has a healthy fund balance.
The board also welcomed to its membership community member Blake Pool, an associate in private banking at JP Morgan. Board member Sassy Wheeler officially turned in her resignation.
“The amount of sweat equity to this point [by Blake] is as impressive as his ability to follow-through on his commitments,” said board member Carey.
The next meeting will be held on March 14.