YES Prep Charter Schools To Expand Outside Of Texas

Fifteen years ago here in Houston, the YES Prep charter school started in a parking lot. Today YES Prep has become a brand name among charter schools and it plans to grow that name.

Charter school YES Prep has big plans to expand here in Houston. 

And for the first time, the charter network will open schools outside of Texas. First in Tennessee, then in Louisiana.

Jason Bernal is the president of YES Prep. He says they wanted to grow in a slow, methodical way.

“We used a process that looked at the need was number one, facilities, politics, the other big one was how close is it to Houston? What is the community like? What are the charter laws like?”

Bernal says the laws for charter schools in Tennessee and Louisiana played a big role in the final decision.

The expansion won’t be cheap. Bernal says the charter network will take on debt and have to raise capital.

“We’re looking at around $60 million that would be specifically for a lot of the growth here in Houston, to add more seats for students in Houston.”

Jason Bernal
YES Prep's Jason Bernal announces expansion plans.

Here in Houston YES Prep will open six new schools by 2020. Bernal says the campus locations haven’t been selected yet.

Overall, he says YES Prep expects to have more than 25,000 students in its three markets — Texas, Tennessee and Louisiana — by 2020. Like the rest of YES Prep, each new school will have grades six through 12.

As charters, they are free schools and receive public tax dollars. But the focus at YES Prep is getting low income students ready for college.

Spring Branch Superintendent Duncan Klussmann says he’s learned from YES Prep since his district started partnering with them.

“So one thing that they do really well is they know their ultimate goal, they stay focused on that goal and they don’t deviate from that. And I think that’s something all large organizations can learn from.”

Charla Stuart
Charla Stuart has a son at YES Prep. She's excited about the expansion.

That drive is part of the YES Prep culture.

Bernal says they want to show that their model can be scaled up and replicated.

Some parents see the expansion in other ways.

Charla Stuart says school has been a struggle for her son Aaron. He’s twelve years old.

“So I remember as a sixth grader he would call teachers and just be very timid over the phone and ask a question and then not even leave his name and I would make him call back.”

Stuart credits YES Prep with helping him grow academically and personally.

“But now in seventh grade, he’s like, 'Hi, Mr. Moses' — which is his math teacher — 'this is Aaron and I have a question about whatever.' So his self-esteem has increased, and also his ability to advocate for himself, which all students need when they go away to school.”

Stuart says those kind of problems are not unique to her son or Houston. She says she’s thrilled with the expansion.

The first YES Prep outside of Houston is expected to open in two years.

 

By the Numbers

Houston

  • Six new schools
  • 5,700 new seats
  • Over 17,000 students by 2020

Tennessee

  • First two schools open in Memphis in 2015
  • Six schools in Memphis by 2020 with 5,400 students
  • The Tennessee YES Prep charters would have the same board and superintendent as YES Prep in Houston

Louisiana

  • First schools open in 2017
  • Campuses expected in New Orleans and Baton Rouge
  • Four schools with 3,700 students expected by 2020

 

Bio photo of Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for KUHF, including K-12 and higher education.

Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and regularly contributed to WLRN, the local NPR affiliate and Miami Herald news partner...