Ken Kalthoff, NBC 5 News
Uplift Education finally got approval from Dallas City Hall to open a charter school on Elm Street in the heart of Deep Ellum's nightclub district.
A controversial charter school should soon join the eclectic Deep Ellum nightclub area after two votes Wednesday by the Dallas City Council.
Uplift Education, which operates several North Texas charter schools, including Peak Academy in East Dallas, plans to open the new school in a vacant office building at 2625 Elm St.
Uplift won Dallas City Council approval Wednesday for a low-interest bond financing plan to provide money for several new charter schools with about $300,000 in interest savings.
"Uplift intends to use 100 percent of the saving from these low-interest rate bonds to give our teachers a pay raise," said Uplift CEO Yasmin Bhatia.
A group of happy Uplift parents and students attended the council meeting to support the request.
"Choosing an Uplift school has made a huge impact in my life," Peak Academy student Demetria Hargrove said. "I have high hopes and I have high expectations for the future."
City officials said the finance plan will include no liability for the city of Dallas.
But there was emotional opposition because the Uplift expansion plan comes as the Dallas Independent School District is closing 11 schools for lack of money and declining enrollment.
"This particular case is an adverse incursion upon DISD. This vehicle allows the brightest and the best minds to be drained from DISD. That, in my opinion, is not good for our city, our image," Councilman Vonciel Jones Hill said.
"The question that we need to be asking ourselves is, 'What are we going to do to support our public schools that I pay every year?' I pay taxes to my public schools, as a homeowner, all of us do," said Councilwoman Caroline Davis.
Several of the DISD schools slated to close are in Davis' and Hill’s council districts.
But the council voted 11-4 in favor of the Uplift financing plan.
"As far as I’m concerned, the weight of the city should go behind the children," said Councilman Dwaine Caraway.
Council supporters said charter school competition complements DISD public schools and helps improve education in Dallas.
"Most residents move out of the city of Dallas when their kids come to school age because of education," Councilman Tennell Atkins said.
Neighbors first opposed the Deep Ellum location over fears that a school within 300 feet of bars and restaurants could restrict expansion of existing businesses and the opening of new ones.
Elm Street is soon to get a city expansion of sidewalks to encourage new business where many storefronts are currently vacant.
"But now we’ve worked that out, so we can all work together, and I think it’s going to be a pretty good relationship," said Barry Annino, president of the Deep Ellum Foundation.
In a separate vote, the City Council on Wednesday eliminated the 300-foot distance restriction on alcoholic beverage establishments at that particular school location.
"We’re used to being in urban areas. That’s where we go to serve our students, so we weren’t worried about that at all," Bhatia said.
She said Uplift will close on the purchase of the Deep Ellum building on April 1 and open the new school Aug. 2.