The new KIPP Woodson Park Academy school welcomed its first students back to in-person learning in a brand-new building that was the result of a community-driven partnership that includes some of Atlanta’s premiere organizations. The completion of the revitalized campus of educational and health services facilities in the Grove Park neighborhood is the culmination of years of neighborhood input, partnership, and collaboration, that brought together nonprofits, government, corporations, foundations, and others.
The new KIPP Woodson Park Academy, located at 1605 Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway NW, is a 115,000-square-foot, pre-kindergarten to 8th grade public school that will serve up to 900 students. The school opened March 16th with phase one, which includes in-person instruction for a targeted group of scholars. Phase two is set to begin April 19 with a face-to-face option for all families who choose to return. A 23,000-square-foot YMCA Early Learning Center opened Feb. 1 employing a hybrid teaching model with two classrooms open this spring and plans to expand enrollment to all six classrooms in the fall. Finally, a 2,500-square-foot community health facility to be operated by Whitefoord Inc. make the campus a community and neighborhood hub and a central component of larger equitable revitalization efforts in the Grove Park neighborhood. The project had an impressive and intentional level of minority/women contracting participation; more than 40 percent of contractors involved were qualified minority- and women-owned companies.
“This is an extraordinary milestone for the Grove Park neighborhood,” said Debra Edelson, Executive Director, Grove Park Foundation. “The kind of collaboration that brought this project to life serves as a model, not only in Atlanta but nationally, for what can be accomplished when dedicated partners come together to make a positive, lasting impact and create an equitable path to higher learnings and earnings for underserved children and families.”
Grove Park Foundation is a Purpose Built Communities network member taking a holistic approach working with neighbors, local organizations, and leaders across sectors to make investments in people and the neighborhood to achieve greater racial equity, upward economic mobility, and better health outcomes for Grove Park and its residents. They do this by investing in education, housing, health and wellness, economic development, and the arts.
Atlanta Public Schools closed the doors of the K-2 Carter Woodson Primary School in 2015 on the site and merged it with the student body at Grove Park Intermediate School, which created the K-5 Woodson Park Academy. The new Kindergarten through 8th grade model at Woodson Park is a first in the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) system. In 2019, APS signed a contract with nonprofit KIPP Metro Atlanta to staff and operate the neighborhood K-5 school and grow it into a K-8 program. The school is open to all children who live in the Grove Park APS attendance zone. It operates as a neighborhood school, with no lottery or entrance requirements.
“KIPP Woodson Park Academy is our 10th school in Atlanta, yet unlike the others, KIPP Woodson Park Academy operates under a unique partnership with APS,” said Kinnari Patel-Smyth, Executive Director of KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools. “Scores of people dedicated to improving the lives of students have come together to create a supportive, innovative learning environment. The KIPP Woodson Park Academy is rooted in resilience and pride in our beloved community. We could not be more pleased that the students and families of Grove Park are getting a beautiful school and expanded resources with the YMCA and health center. All students deserve these amazing resources to fulfill their greatest potential. “
The partnership with APS is contributing to the holistic vision for neighborhood change.
“KIPP Woodson Park Academy characterizes the holistic approach we need in the future to educate our young scholars and then graduate them ready for college, career, and life,” said Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring. “With this new campus, we plan to provide families in the Grove Park neighborhood with comprehensive, wrap-around support with proven partners. Thanks to the many partnerships and investments in Grove Park, students, their families, and the community will have access to early childhood programming, a YMCA, a health clinic, and more.”
Atlanta Public Schools and the Grove Park Foundation teamed up to provide the funding for the new KIPP Woodson Park Academy with each group contributing approximately $18.5 and $19 million respectively. Numerous philanthropic, corporate, and financial partners came together to make KIPP Woodson Park Academy a reality and a symbol of opportunity, empowerment, and equity for Grove Park.
“Our ability to leverage and match public investment with private investment was key,” said Edelson. “This project is rooted in inclusive development and economic mobility to ensure that economic resources are provided to communities where they can make a meaningful and even life-changing difference for residents.”
YMCA of Metro Atlanta
The new YMCA Early Learning Center raised more than $9 million to fund the new facility.
“This YMCA was built by the community for the community,” said Lauren Koontz, CEO and President, YMCA of Metro Atlanta. “This communal gathering spot will become a hub for building the spirit, mind and body of residents and, ultimately, strengthening the foundation of the entire Grove Park community.”
The new, 2,500-square-foot community health center, operated by Whitefoord Inc., rounds out the campus providing priority access to the children on the campus and greater access to affordable health care for residents of the surrounding neighborhoods.
“There is a crucial connection between health and academic success: healthy children stay in school and achieve more,” said Craig Tindall, interim-CEO, Whitefoord, Inc., which will operate the community health center. “We are thrilled to be part of this campus and to serve the children and families of KIPP Woodson Park Academy to help them achieve their highest potential.”
“This project was truly a collaborative effort. With so many influential and involved stakeholders, receiving input and opinions was never a tough task,” said Jesse Frasier, Program Manager, BDR Partners. “Despite challenges of 70+ inches of rain in 2020, unsuitable soils on site, and delays due to COVID-19, our team persevered to maintain the approved budget and deliver the school on time.”
According to construction manager David Stone, there was an undeniable sense of pride for everyone involved in this project. “This neighborhood has seen decades of disinvestment, and we’re proud to have been involved in helping reverse that trend and this first step toward holistic revitalization of Grove Park.”