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Uplift Education charter school group picks sites for Fort Worth campuses

FORT WORTH -- The prominent Uplift Education charter school group has selected sites for two campuses in southeast Fort Worth, including one at the long-abandoned Masonic Home and School.

And in a nod to the home's legendary Mighty Mites football team, that campus will be called Uplift Might Prep. The second campus, at a former RadioShack store on South Beach Street, will be called Uplift Meridian Prep.

"We're really excited to be expanding into Fort Worth and honored to pay tribute to the Mighty Mites," said Deborah Bigham, Uplift's chief development officer.

The Mighty Mites -- orphans who played with mismatched uniforms and dinged helmets -- were a football force in the 1930s and '40s and later became the subject of a book, Twelve Mighty Orphans: The Inspiring True Story of the Mighty Mites Who Ruled Texas Football. The home, operated by Masons, closed in 2005.

Bigham said the former home and school, located on Wichita Street, was a perfect fit for Uplift, particularly since it already had a gym. The site has four buildings, two of which will be renovated for the school, including the gym area.

"The RadioShack one will be easier to renovate, as it's an old warehouse and you can drop in walls easier than an older building," Bigham said. The former Masonic Home and School "has been sitting there unused, so it will take quite a while to get to make the classrooms back into a school for our scholars."

In November, Uplift officials announced plans to open multiple campuses in Fort Worth over the next few years. Bigham said the city's southeast side was a focus, as the group aims to serve low-income families who have not traditionally had a choice of schools. Nearly all other public charter schools in Fort Worth have been west of Interstate 35W. Bigham said the group will look at other sites in coming years.

Uplift is taking applications for its lottery enrollment through April 1. After that, admission will be first come, first served.

The Might campus will open to kindergartners and grades one, two, six and seven. It will eventually serve all grades. The Meridian campus will open to kindergartners and first-graders. It will be an elementary campus that feeds into Might.

April Knox, who will oversee the Fort Worth schools, has been interviewing job candidates this week and has spent months getting word out through grassroots efforts, including mailings, door hangers and community meetings.

"There are a lot of people who just don't know what charter schools are, and think we are a private school they can't afford or that we only take the cream of the crop," Knox said. "They are shocked to learn that we are a free public school that is open to them and their children. I'm really excited about our facilities. There is new commerce and housing coming up here, and a school really helps to solidify a neighborhood."

Eva-Marie Ayala,

817-390-7700

Twitter: @fwstayala

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