The start of the 2018-19 school year brought a new charter school to the Cy-Fair area.
Tuition-free public charter school system YES Prep opened its newest location this August at 14741 Yorktown Plaza Drive—near the Beltway 8 and Hwy. 290 intersection—with a founding class of 145 sixth-graders, Director Laura Washington Dugan said. This is the 18th campus for the Houston-based school system, which launched in 1998.
YES Prep Northwest’s boundaries encompass 11 northwest Harris County ZIP codes, including 77064, 77040, 77065, 77095, 77070, where students have access to free transportation. Each year, the school plans to add one grade level until it grows to a full sixth- through 12th-grade campus.
“Kids stay with the same group all throughout middle school and high school, so it really becomes a small family,” Dugan said. “As a founding class, they’re getting to help us build this school.”
The charter school opened in a part of Houston where few currently exist. Only two other open-enrollment charter schools are located in the Cy-Fair area, according to the Texas Education Agency—a Harmony School of Excellence on North Gessner Drive and the School of Science and Technology off Hwy. 249.
Dugan said the growth of the area and the facility availability resulted in the Northwest Houston location. YES Prep officials wanted to offer more education options for families in the Cy-Fair area, she said.
Although open enrollment charter schools like YES Prep must accept any student who applies, they have the ability to limit the total number of students per grade level, Dugan said.
The school will admit no more than 155 students per grade level and will use a lottery system to select applicants at random when there are more applicants than available seats, Dugan said. As of the start of the 2018-19 school year, she said the lottery system was not yet needed.
By limiting each grade level to 155 students, class sizes at the school will be kept to about 20-30 students each, Dugan said. Students are also sorted into a “house” system to have even smaller communities where they eat lunch and participate in other activities.
“My big goal for this year is just to create a safe, strong environment for our founding staff and students,” Dugan said.
While the founding class has several years to think about applying for college, YES Prep schools focus on college readiness from the very beginning, Dugan said. In middle school, that means filling any gaps that may exist, seeing academic growth each year and preparing students for high school courses, she said.
By the time students are in high school, Dugan said the school emphasizes the importance of preparing for the SAT, maintaining GPA and taking advanced placement courses to start earning college credit. High school students also attend seminar classes that cover topics related to college readiness beyond academics, including time management and living on their own.
“College counselors work with them to select however many schools they want to that are going to work for that student,” Dugan said. “Our main focus is to make sure they have access and they’re able to attend the college or university that they want to.”
All students at YES Prep Northwest are enrolled in a double block of both English and math classes, meaning they receive a full 100 minutes of instruction in both subjects daily. This year’s class of sixth-graders also participates in physical education and computer classes throughout the week, which are designed to keep students active and educate them on basic skills they use both in school and in the real world, Dugan said.
Dugan said as the school grows in the coming years, additional extracurricular activity options—such as music or art—will be added to the schedule.
“I’m looking at what our students are interested in,” she said. “If there’s a really strong desire for theater or for an arts class, we could hire an arts teacher next year.”
14741 Yorktown Plaza Drive, Houston