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Urban Preparatory Academy of Wichita to serve kindergarten through fifth grade

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, March 27, 2014, at 7:34 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, March 27, 2014, at 7:37 p.m.

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The former Mueller Elementary School will open this fall as a private school serving kindergarten through fifth grade, according to the leader of a church that bought the building last year.

“We’re on track and moving forward, pre-registering students,” said Wade Moore, pastor of Christian Faith Centre. “We’re getting lots of interest … so that’s pretty exciting.”

The former Mueller school, 2821 E. 24th St. North, near 24th and Estelle, will open in August as the Urban Preparatory Academy of Wichita, Moore said.

He said it will feature blended learning – a combination of traditional classroom teaching and online instruction – as well as small classes, an extended school day, performance arts and athletics. A brochure for the school says another mission is to “elevate the awareness of good nutrition, exercise, rest, relationships, and self-respect as components of a healthy and happy life.”

The Wichita school district closed Mueller in 2012 as part of cost-cutting measures and new attendance boundaries. Christian Faith Centre paid $40,000 for the building last June.

Moore said the new school will be modeled after urban private or charter schools like the A.W. Brown Fellowship-Leadership Academy and Focus Learning Academy in Dallas and University Academy in Kansas City, Mo.

“We’ll be doing all of our core things, but our focus is business, entrepreneurship and cultural awareness,” Moore said.

Cultural awareness is “more than a racial thing,” he added. “We’re creating a different kind of culture here – a culture of professionalism, a culture of respect, a culture of higher learning earlier.”

Since buying the former public school, Moore has become an outspoken advocate for charter schools, scholarship tax credits and other school choice initiatives. During a rally at the Kansas Statehouse in February, he said public schools are failing too many children, particularly minorities.

“You gotta understand that if we do not pass these (school choice) laws, we’ll see more of our children fail,” he said at the rally. “We’ll see more of our children in the penal system. We’ll see more of our children committing crimes, more of our families going to the graveyards and burying our children. We need them to pass these laws now so that we can stop this cycle.”

Moore said he hopes the Urban Preparatory Academy could eventually be a charter school, which would make it eligible for taxpayer funding, but he wanted to get it up and running this year. The school will charge families $320 a month for the first child and $270 a month for each additional child.

Other details, including the school’s hours and opening date, are not yet decided, he said. He is interviewing for a principal and teachers and will hire based on enrollment numbers, he said.

Students will attend classes only a half-day Fridays, he said, and teachers will spend Friday afternoons in professional development.

Inside, the school building looks much the same as it did when it housed the Mueller program, an aerospace and engineering magnet. But banners and bulletin boards now announce, “Welcome to Urban Preparatory Academy.”

Since August, the school has hosted free classes on Saturday mornings – sewing, ACT prep, tutoring, financial literacy and more – as part of its community outreach mission.

Shortly after buying the building last year, Moore said he envisioned a K-5 school geared primarily to African-American children. That’s because of the school’s location in the heart of northeast Wichita, where there is a high concentration of African-American families, he said.

But that has changed. An informational brochure says the school “will serve low-income and/or mixed-income students … with a view to educating all students at the same high level, irrespective of socioeconomic, racial, ethnic and/or other status.”

“As you develop, things just kind of change and evolve,” Moore said. “We thought about primarily African-American students because we are right here in the neighborhood. But the more we went on and the more people I talked to, I see that there’s an interest beyond the African-American community.”

For more information about Urban Preparatory Academy, call 316-361-2469 or e-mail wmoore@upacademywichita.org.

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @suzannetobias.

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