IRVING (CBSDFW.COM) – One of the top ranked schools in North Texas stepped back from a plan Thursday night to only accept new students from areas with primarily low income families. North Hills Preparatory, a charter school run by Uplift Education, admitted it was caught off guard by parents who felt the change could influence educational standards at the highly regarded school.
Uplift’s CEO, Yasmi Bhatia, stood in front of a packed gymnasium at the school Thursday and personally apologized to parents for not having a meeting about the plan earlier. Uplift, a non-profit organization that operates charter schools in the Metroplex, said in a letter to parents last month that it targets 30 to 40% of its student population falling into a low income classification. Less than 7% of students at North Hills however, are in that category.
Uplift said it received permission from the Texas Education Agency this fall to give preference to lottery entries from two zip codes. 75038 covers an area between the Bush turnpike and 114, east of the DFW Airport. 75062 covers a long stretch on the north side of 183 where it runs through Irving. Because most openings each year are taken by siblings of current students, Uplift believed the change would help include more students from the areas of Irving it wanted to serve.
Parents had an immediate reaction to the plan, which many learned about for the first time in a school email last week.
Gina Noah said she has friends who have planned to apply, but would be left out by the new limitations. She was also concerned an influx of students with a lower socio-economic status could drag down academic performance that is rigorous now.
“I think the standard will have to go down, which will then affect my children,” she said.
Tom Coffey, who spoke out at the meeting Thursday, questioned the ability of new parents to provide the volunteer hours and participation the school requires.
“The parents seem to be involved to the point that we have something that’s not broken, and if it’s not broken, why fix it?”
School officials defended the ability of parents at all economic levels to participate in the educational process.
Bhatia said the school board will have a special session next week to return to an admission plan with no zip code preferences. She also will ask school founders and parents to work with the board in coming up with a solution this year to include more of the targeted student group.
Uplift said it has commonly used zip code preferences for some of its other schools, but it is usually used immediately when the school is founded. Uplift said North Hills was founded before state law allowed for the preferential use of zip codes.