Andre Agassi serves up a win for city school students

Agassi, rear, celebrated a new elementary school with children in North Philadelphia yesterday. His foundation bought an old factory, then leased it to a charter school provider.

A group of excited, young students got to show off their new school yesterday to Mayor Michael Nutter and a national celebrity.

KIPP, a national charter school provider, had a ribbon-cutting for the opening of its first elementary school in the city. The school leases a former factory in Allegheny which was purchased and renovated by an organization co-founded by tennis legend Andre Agassi.

The partnership is the first of what Agassi and KIPP officials hope will be several schools in low-income neighborhoods across the country.

“I’m a ninth-grade dropout. I was fortunate to have tennis to fall back on,” Agassi told the audience, describing what led him to start the Canyon-Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund. “I said ‘What about those kids who don’t have tennis to fall back on? Where do they end up?’ And unfortunately we all know that too well.”

The school opened in August 2010, but just moved into the new facility last August and construction was finally finished last month. It has 150 students in K-2, with plans to expand to fourth grade by 2014. Parents say the school is a godsend.

“I’m grateful to have this school here,” said Brock Nelson Sr., who has twins in the first grade. Nelson, a school teacher, said he appreciates KIPP’s model of preparing each student for college. “Just the structure, the time they have with them, I appreciate that.”

Under a compact recently signed between the city, the Philadelphia School District and charter school groups, the city hopes to replicate the highest-performing schools and close poor-performing schools.
Nutter lauded KIPP officials for their record. “[The students] have to understand the opportunity to achieve is right there before them,” he said.


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