KIPP St. Louis High School opens its doors with funding from MBS Urban Initiatives CDE

August 18, 2017 | McCormack Baron Salazar

Ribbon Cutting

This week, with financing from MBS Urban Initiatives CDE, KIPP St. Louis opened its first high school in the City of St. Louis.

The flagship high school, located at 706 North Jefferson Avenue in the Locust Business District of St. Louis, will initially serve 120 9th graders in the 2017-2018 school year.

Located within the Near North Side Choice Neighborhood boundary, the new KIPP St. Louis High School will grow to serve approximately 750 students in grades 9 through 12. The school's building had been vacated in 2013 by another charter school. Now, a 110,000 square foot renovation will provide 75,000 square feet for the high school, 25,000 square feet for the KSL regional offices, and 10,000 square feet of collaboration space to be used by KSL and local non-profit partners.

The Near North Side Choice Neighborhood is one of the most severely distressed areas in the City of St. Louis. Suffering from high crime and high poverty rates, the public schools that serve the area also struggle. At the public high school, Vashon, the percentage of students at or above grade level is extremely low: 11.9% in mathematics and 30.8% in English language arts.  Vashon High also has a high dropout rate (63.7%) and a low four-year graduation rate (53.9%).  The community received a $30 million HUD Choice Neighborhood Implementation grant in 2016, with a team that included the City of St. Louis, McCormack Baron Salazar, Inc. and Urban Strategies, Inc.  

KIPP, the Knowledge is Power Program, is a national network of open enrollment, college-preparatory public charter schools. With two elementary schools and two middle schools already established in St. Louis, KIPP St. Louis’ (KSL) growth plans included opening its first, flagship high school for students entering 9th grade in the 2017-2018 school year.

As a non-profit educational institution, KSL works with limited financial resources to provide critical services to the low-income population that it serves. The KIPP St. Louis High School is essential to the stability and success of their existing schools and programs in the area – and KSL needed additional funding to support the scope and services envisioned at the new school. MBS Urban Initiatives funded a $6 million New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) investment in the project, which brought the necessary capital to move forward as planned.

The demographic patterns of the high school will closely mirror those of its other four schools, which are currently attended by nearly 1,330 scholars of whom 98% are African American or Hispanic, 96% qualify for free or reduced-price meals and 11% qualify for special education services.  About a third of the 134 ninth-graders who started in 2017 came from a KIPP middle school.

KIPP is demonstrably changing the outcome for low-income students. Nationwide, KIPP schools have higher average graduation, college start and college completion rates, as compared to the national averages and the averages for low income students.  The new KIPP St. Louis High School will incorporate KIPP Through College (“KTC”). KTC is a signature KIPP program that works with students throughout their high school and college careers to ensure that students not only matriculate into college, but earn a degree. This in-depth program provides individualized supports, mentoring and coaching to help students get to and through college.