The Rocketship Education, a non-profit group of schools headquartered in Redwood City, is keen to open its 13th school in the East Bay Area and 19th in Washington, D.C. The charter school operator acquired the East Bay Times’ Antioch bureau building with the intention of converting it into a school that will host kids from Kindergarten to grade 5. A 2-storied building, Rocketship had to part with $1.5 million to complete the deal. In August alone, the school opened a couple of branches, and if everything goes as planned, the Bay Area branch will open early next year.
The Antioch Branch
Rocketship’s Antioch branch will be in the neighborhood of Kimball Elementary and Fremont Elementary, two charter schools whose performance has been devastating. In 2015/16 academic year, for example, students from Kimball who met the state standards for English and mathematics were 27% and 17% respectively. Fremont was even worse with 18% and 9% in that order. Rocketship Education aims at curing the challenge of low-performance in charter schools to the benefit of children born and schooled in poor neighborhoods, Antioch being one of them. As such, the school will have to admit some of the students currently schooling at Fremont and Kimball. According to the network’s manager of marketing and communications Ms. Elise Hill, Rocketship believes that being born in a bad neighborhood should not be a basis for a kid to be condemned to bad schools. She also explained that a majority of charter schools that operates in poverty-stricken neighborhoods are disadvantaged by the fact that low funding precipitated by low property tax revenue.
Operating in bad neighborhoods comes with a set of challenges. For Rocketship Education, its collection of challenges have come in the form of criticism from authorities who feel that Antioch was not the best locality to build a school. The area police have written to the school management requesting them to reconsider their intentions, arguing that the area has many cases of drug abuse, prostitution, and other crimes. However, Hill is optimistic that the choice of site will not deter Rocketship’s ultimate goal. Plans are underway to make the school as safe as possible, with a strong fence and a gate being one of the measures.