A charter school under construction in far southwest Houston is slated to open its doors in August 2024 to a cohort of 400 pupils from pre-kindergarten through the second grade.

A student lottery application for the 2024-2025 school year is open for the YES Prep Southwest Oaks Elementary School, being built at 5212 Anderson Road, about two blocks east of the Brays Oaks Management District boundary.

It is one of three new elementary campuses that YES Prep Public Schools is set to launch in parts of Houston it deems as underserved.

“These expansions are driven by our continued commitment to providing quality college-prep education to Houston communities and closing achievement gaps,” said YES Prep Chief Executive Officer Mark DiBella. “When we initially served grades 6-12, our teachers observed that the reading and math skills of many incoming sixth-graders were significantly below grade level. Recognizing the need for early intervention, we included the new elementary schools when we kicked off our expansion plan during the 2020-2021 school year.”

DiBella noted that YES Prep teachers’ observations correlate with Texas statistics showing only one in three third-graders is reading and performing math at grade level, leading pupils to struggle throughout their school experience.

The new elementary school will add third-grade classes in 2025 and an additional grade each year until it becomes a K-5 school.

Angela Rodriguez, YES Prep managing director of communications and marketing, said the new campuses will serve as the feeder schools for the secondary schools in their areas, as the six existing YES Prep elementary schools do.

“YES Prep Southwest Oaks Elementary students will gain automatic enrollment into our Southwest Oaks Secondary School,” she said.

The school network operates as a nonprofit supported by state funds and community contributions instead of property tax revenues, which make up most of the funding for traditional public schools. Open and free to all students, YES Prep offers innovative teaching while maintaining state accountability and transparency standards, school officials said.

Elementary school groundbreaking

Ninety percent of YES Prep students citywide are eligible for enrollment in the daily lunch program that is free or at reduced costs, according to DiBella.

The curriculum at YES Prep Southwest Oaks Elementary focuses on foundational learning, including literacy (reading and language concepts), math, social skills, and college readiness. The emphasis on strong reading skills aims to enable pupils to read at or above grade level by the end of the third grade.

Like other YES Prep schools, the Southwest Oaks elementary curriculum also underscores multilingualism through its bilingual program to ensure that learners maintain proficiency in their primary language and culture while acquiring competency and fluency in English.

“YES Prep has many approaches that set us apart from other charter schools. We are known for our small school size setting and personalized instruction, a rigorous academic curriculum, and a unique character development program,” DiBella said. “Additionally, we focus on targeted interventions and offer abundant enrichment opportunities from art to sports to college tours. Secondary students also receive personalized counseling to help them find best-fit colleges and universities.”

The citywide Class of 2023 submitted over 17,500 college applications to more than 450 institutions of higher learning across the U.S., with seniors enrolling at over 150 colleges each fall, school records show.

“Our alumni have gone on to excel across diverse fields, such as education, law, medicine, journalism, and more,” DiBella said. “Many are first-generation, college-bound students who have overcome challenges to achieve their goals.”

In July, YES Prep community coordinator Kiara Cabrera described herself as a proud alumna when presenting the new Southwest Oaks Elementary Plan to the Southwest Oaks Area Management District board.

“As a YES Prep Southeast Secondary alumna, I can attest to the transformative power of a YES Prep education,” she said. “It was at YES Prep that I found not just an educational institution but a supportive community that believed in my potential when the odds seemed stacked against me.”

She credited YES Prep for laying the solid foundation for her to pursue a college education. After graduating from YES Prep, she earned a bachelor’s degree in human development and family sciences at the University of Texas at Austin. Her profound gratitude to YES Prep led her to become a pivotal member of YES Prep’s COVID Response Team during the pandemic before she assumed her role as a community coordinator.

“YES Prep not only provided me with a quality education but also instilled in me a sense of responsibility to pay it forward and positively impact the lives of future YES Prep students,” she said. “YES Prep has been more than just a school; it has been a foundation for my journey as an advocate, educator, and believer in the potential of every student.”

To secure a seat at YES Prep Southwest Oaks Elementary School for the 2024-2025 school year, create an online account to sign up at or call (713) 967-9000.

— by Zen Zheng