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New East Austin Middle School Opening in August
Press Release

January, 2009

After much anticipation, Southwest Key is pleased to announce that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has granted a charter to the East Austin College Prep Academy. The announcement was made on November 21 after submitting an application in February. The academy will commence with a 6th grade campus; classes are scheduled to begin August 2009.  The charter school will be housed at Southwest Key’s East Austin Community Development Center, located at 6002 Jain Lane.  Families can tour the school and learn more at the first parent information session on January 15 at 6:00 pm at 6002 Jain Lane.

“The students and parents of East Austin, along with Southwest Key and its stakeholders, are pleased to learn of the Texas State Board of Education’s faith in our organization to deliver such an important service to the children and families of the East Austin community,” said Dr. Nellie Cantu, Superintendent of Education at Southwest Key.  The East Austin College Prep Academy’s application scored the highest in the state this year and was unanimously approved by the members of the State Board of Education, which oversees TEA.

The open enrollment charter school will provide the first middle school class since Allen Junior High closed in the 1980s, leaving the Johnston Terrace neighborhood without a middle school. According to the US Census Data only 31 percent of the population in the Johnston Terrace has a high school diploma while only two percent hold a bachelor’s degree. Southwest Key’s decision to open a charter school is driven by the desire to improve the quality of education in East Austin and provide educational options for East Austin residents. Southwest Key plans to expand the charter school to include a 7th grade class in 2010 and an 8th grade campus in 2011. 

Addressing the needs of Texas’ Latino student population is a top priority for Central Texas.  According to the U.S. Census, the number of Latino students in U.S. public schools almost doubled between 1990 and 2006, with the percentage of Latinos growing from 12 to 20 percent.  It identifies Texas as one of four states where the Latino public school student population composes more than 40 percent of all students.  In Texas today, approximately 116,000 students are educated at charter schools, while 16,000 students remain on waiting lists.  Although 16 charter school applications reached the final round this year, only eight charters were awarded by the TEA this year.   

“This new school will be based on the highly successful YES Academy model in Houston, which was just named one of the top 100 High Schools in America according to US News and World Report,” says Katie H. Howell, Executive Director of the Resource Center for Charter Schools. “Even though charter schools make up only 2% of Texas Public Schools, they make up 20% of the best high schools in Texas. We applaud East Austin College Prep Academy for creating a partnership with residents of East Austin and providing quality choice in education.” 

Southwest Key has been preparing for its charter school role for several years by establishing a rigorous and relevant project-based curriculum and constructing a school facility equipped with state of the art instructional equipment.  Southwest Key currently operates four alternative schools in the state, including one in Travis County.

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