Camden School Board needs KIPP’s final numbers pronto

In case you missed it, I wrote Thursday about the KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy’s group’s plan to build its first school at the site the state had reserved for the Lanning Square Elementary School and expand from there.

One of the issues surrounding this plan that I didn’t mention in the article is that the Camden Board of Education, in order to finish its long-term plan, must urgently work out what KIPP’s enrollment will be.

According to the Renaissance school project’s application, 2,800 students would eventually be educated within its five schools.

But the board is still awaiting a final number.

“We need to know what the ultimate enrollment is so we can do our work,” said board member Ray Lamboy, who is spearheading the district’s long-range facilities plan.

The Camden board is in the process of calculating how many students will continue to attend district schools in the next five years. The long-range facilities plan is due in April to the state Department of Education.

The district is also reaching out to current charter schools to get information on their expansion plans so it can better calculate its future, Lamboy said.

The district’s most recent long-range plan was completed in 2005 and revised in 2007.

“The student population is still the same,” said Wendy Kunz, who is director of facilities construction for the Abbott district, referring to the 18,000 students in Camden. “Charters have siphoned more of that population.”

The nine active charter schools in the city account for more than 3,000 of all district students.

Although no other Renaissance school projects are on the horizon in Camden, one of the masterminds behind the KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy, George E. Norcross III, believes there are more to come. (See the disclaimer on Norcross and the Inquirer HERE.)

When I interviewed Norcross on the KIPP plans, he said that project would remain in the general vicinity of Lanning Square but that other Renaissance school projects could be built in the other three quadrants of the city.

That would almost entirely get rid of the current school district, I said. To which he contended that the school district has failed in its education mission and parents want alternatives.

“They might be pretty pleased,” he said.

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