ST. LOUIS — Soulard will soon be home to a new charter school.
Lift for life Academy plans to add an elementary school to the neighborhood after 18 years in operation in south St. Louis.
Lift for Life Academy currently serves grades six through twelve. Co-founder Marshall Cohen said he wanted to reach kids at a younger age, so he made long-term plans to grow his school. He believes the new school is a chance to bring hope to an underserved community.
"We serve the entire city of St. Louis," Cohen said.
It's been nearly two decades since Cohen and his wife founded the first ever charter school in St. Louis.
"For the past 18 years, we've been doing sixth to 12th grade," he said.
His school mostly serves underprivileged students from low-income areas and since 2000 it has become a place of empowerment for children all across the city.
"We just feel it's important to give opportunities to communities," he told 5 On Your Side.
Now, Cohen is looking to give those same opportunities to younger kids as well.
"We decided to open up an elementary school to help serve the kids at an earlier age," he said.
Lift for Life Academy has acquired a building next to its current campus for $1.8 million to build the new campus. The future site of the elementary school was formerly the Metropolitan Community Church, which is relocating to a new space.
"We felt it was really important to drop down and get kindergartners and start earlier so students can stay with us from kindergarten through 12th grade," Cohen said.
Cohen said the building will undergo a complete interior and exterior renovation. He also plans to add a new playground.
"We're rolling this out in phases to make sure this works well for Lift for Life," he said.
Cohen said he hopes the new school will give younger kids the chance to close the achievement and opportunity gap and help them become more successful.
"Having the students stay in kindergarten through 12th grade is really important because then we'll be able to mentor them and really work with them and find what's best for their learning style," he said. "We can get the students at a young age and really work with them and have them take ownership of their education."
The new charter school will open August 2019 serving students in kindergarten to second grade. Officials plan to add a grade each year until it reaches its goal of serving K through 12.
The academy will have no tuition and will be open to all families who live in St. Louis. If you'd like to learn more about the school and how to enroll your children, click this link.