Milwaukee Excellence Charter School to open freestanding high school in former MPS building

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Milwaukee Excellence Charter School, a high-performing public charter school serving middle and high school students, plans to open a freestanding high school campus in a former elementary school building on the city’s far northwest side.

The charter school received approval from the Milwaukee Public Schools board of directors to enter a four-year lease for 7171 W. Brown Deer Road, a building that’s housed several schools since the closure of the district’s Happy Hill Elementary School in 2006.

Milwaukee Excellence will move its high school campus to the former Happy Hill building 7171 W. Brown Deer Road.

Milwaukee Excellence plans to move its high school to the new campus for the 2022-’23 school year. Its high school is currently co-located at Andrew S. Douglas Middle School, a traditional MPS school at 3620 N. 18th St.

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Milwaukee Excellence’s enrollment has grown steadily since its inaugural year in 2016 to 700 students this year. It is a non-instrumentality MPS charter school, meaning it is authorized by the district but its employees are not employed by the district. For the past three years of testing, the school has “significantly exceeded expectations,” according to state report cards.

The Brown Deer Road building offers more classrooms, a dedicated library and computer lab, college planning office, ground-floor office, green space and spaces for key electives, the school said in an announcement Friday. Most recently, the school building was used by Hmong American Peace Academy before it opened its new $30 million high school in the Lindsay Park neighborhood this school year.

“We have a responsibility to our students and families to provide an excellent education starting from grade six to the doors of college,” said Bill Mahler, Jr., chair of the Milwaukee Excellence board of directors. “Where students learn is a key part of our promise. With the stability afforded by a longer-term lease for our high school, we can more fully focus our attention on finalizing plans for a permanent, lasting school home to serve students on the north side of Milwaukee well into the future.”

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Beginning this fall, the Brown Deer Road building will house grades nine through 12, while middle school students, grades 6-8, will remain at their campus at 4950 N. 24th St.

“We are grateful to MPS leadership and the MPS board of directors for their partnership in identifying and approving a long-term lease opportunity that supports our high school scholars and inspires excellence,” said Rodney Lynk, Jr., chief executive officer of Milwaukee Excellence. “We firmly believe that the north side of Milwaukee deserves more investment in high-quality education, and we are determined to do everything we can to give our current and future students the opportunity to succeed.”

The school will open up an undetermined number of spots this upcoming fall for students coming from HOPE Christian High School, a private voucher school that announced last month it will close its doors at the end of the school year, Lynk said during a recent “CEO Chat” with the school community.

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HOPE’s closure underscores the need for high-quality high schools on Milwaukee’s north side, Lynk said. HOPE High School, which is located about a mile from Milwaukee Excellence’s current high school campus, had 265 enrolled students in the 2020-‘21 school year, according to DPI.

Lynk was recently named CEO of Milwaukee Excellence after serving as its interim leader since fall 2021, when founder and former CEO Maurice Thomas was fired over allegations he violated school policies and professional standards.

BizTimes Milwaukee’s Feb. 21 issue includes special coverage of K-12 education in Milwaukee, highlighting efforts to increase the number of seats in high-quality schools in the city and funding challenges that inhibit the growth of high-performing schools.

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