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26 Schools Chosen as Spark Opportunity Grant Winners

January 27, 2020
Grants to support appropriate and affordable facilities for schools in Opportunity Zones and other under-resourced communities

The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) today announced inaugural winners of the Spark Opportunity Grant Program, which supports high-quality public charter schools, serving students in economically distressed communities, in planning for appropriate and permanent facilities. Twenty-six schools serving students in economically distressed communities will use their respective grants, ranging from $15,000 to $50,000, to plan, finance and build facilities that meet the needs of their communities. Ten of the school projects are located in Opportunity Zones and are demonstrating how investments in education can be a critical part of community-driven revitalization efforts. Each school has a proven track record of student success and community engagement.

“The winning schools have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to strong academics, financial and operations management, and serving students and families from under-resourced communities,” said Eva Schweitzer, Director of Finance at LISC. “We look forward to working with them to demystify the facility development process, help them serve more students and improving their facilities.”

Round one of the Spark Opportunity Grant Program will support the creation of 20,000 additional seats for public charter school students. Applications are now open for the second round of grants. Learn more about the Spark Opportunity Grants and application process here.

Inaugural winners include:

  • Frontier STEM High School, Kansas City, MO

“Frontier Schools is the largest charter in Kansas City, Missouri serving more than 1,600 PreK-12 urban core students and focusing on STEM education,” says Superintendent of Frontier Schools Ugur Demircan. “With the Spark Opportunity Grant, it is Frontier’s goal to build an innovation lab annexed to its Frontier STEM High School. This lab will allow proper space for larger-scale technical projects and provide our students the hands-on skills that will greatly contribute to their competitive advantage in post-secondary education and professional careers.”

  • DC Prep—Anacostia Middle Campus, Washington, DC

DC Prep serves students across five district campuses—90% of whom identify as people of color and 80% of whom qualify for Free or Reduced Lunch. Explains DC Prep CEO Laura Maestas, “This Spark Opportunity Grant will enable DC Prep to provide a high-quality middle school education to over 330 students in grades 4-8. Our newest campus, Anacostia Middle, will work to meet Ward 8 families’ demands for additional seats in a high performing middle school within the Ward.”

  • Compass Rose Academy, San Antonio, TX

“As a young school, Compass Rose is urgently exploring options to transition our founding freshman class out of the portable buildings in our middle school’s parking lot and into a permanent facility that can accommodate all of our current and future high school students,” says Compass Rose CEO Paul Morrissey. “The ultimate goal is to find a way to house our full ‘legacy’ K-12 campus on nearby properties to serve nearly 1,600 students in San Antonio. The Spark Opportunity Grant is making that possible by funding some of the planning and development costs that are required to determine whether a prospective option is even a realistic possibility.”
“Visionary school leaders and educators should be spending all of their time improving the lives of students, not on complex real estate transactions and building repairs,” said Walton Family Foundation K-12 Education Program Director Marc Sternberg. “These grants will drive more resources to teaching, learning and serving the needs of local communities.”

Spark Opportunity Grants are supported by $2 million from the Walton Family Foundation and are part of the foundation’s Building Equity Initiative (BEI), which supports efforts to make it easier and more affordable for public charter schools to find, secure and renovate facilities. To date, thousands of students in more than 100 schools are in new or renovated schools or have received facilities technical assistance with support from $185 million in BEI funds. BEI loan recipients have saved more than $28 million, allowing them to direct that money where it belongs—into classrooms to serve students and teachers. The initiative has also made more than $250 million in new private capital available to public charter schools. Learn more in the just-released Building Equity Initiative: 2019 Report.

About LISC
With residents and partners, LISC forges resilient and inclusive communities of opportunity across America – great places to live, work, visit, do business and raise families. Since 1979, LISC has invested $20 billion to build or rehab 400,500 affordable homes and apartments and develop 66.8 million square feet of retail, community and educational space, including charter school facilities. To learn more, visit

About the Walton Family Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation is, at its core, a family-led foundation. Three generations of the descendants of our founders, Sam and Helen Walton, and their spouses, work together to lead the foundation and create access to opportunity for people and communities. We work in three areas: improving K-12 education, protecting rivers and oceans and the communities they support, and investing in our home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta. In 2018, the foundation awarded more than $595 million in grants in support of these initiatives. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.