Aug 24, 2023 - Education

Iowa's only Islamic school works to get private school scholarships

Students listen to storytime at AlRazi Academy

Students hold reading time during summer classes at AlRazi Academy. Photo: Linh Ta/Axios

Iowa's only full-time Islamic school is hoping the state's new private school scholarship program can help bolster its enrollment and provide funds to improve classrooms.

Why it matters: AlRazi Academy in West Des Moines serves as a "bridge" for newly immigrated families from the Middle East, principal Ihsan Yaseen tells Axios.

  • Kids who attend AlRazi can transition more easily into public schools, thanks to staff that help them acclimate to life in the U.S., Yaseen says.

Driving the news: School began Wednesday for AlRazi's close to 60 students between kindergarten and fifth grades.

  • By 2024-25, Yaseen hopes the school will be accredited, which will qualify it for the state's voucher program. That will help it expand up to eighth grade and 300 total students.

What's happening: AlRazi is finishing renovations this year after receiving over $300,000 in grants from the state over the last three years.

  • School officials renovated classrooms, added a kitchen, built a playground and purchased a school bus with the funds.
  • State officials are holding a comprehensive site visit in October to check if the school meets accreditation standards.

Flashback: AlRazi started nearly 20 years ago and moved to its current Valley Junction space in 2012 as the school expanded, Yaseen says. It accommodated students up to eighth grade.

Yes, but: After COVID hit in 2020, the school closed its doors and partnered with local public schools to provide online lessons for the year.

  • It reopened in 2021-22 but with fewer staff and students, cutting down to just kindergarten through fourth grade, Yaseen says. They added fifth grade this year.

Of note: Though it's an Islamic school, students do not have to be Muslim to attend and can opt out of religious courses.

What's next: The school receives daily calls about using funds from the new program to attend, Yaseen says.

  • That would help families who can't afford the currently $475 monthly tuition.
  • If the school can start accepting the vouchers, officials plan to use the funds to improve staff pay, build an indoor gym and purchase more library books.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Des Moines.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Des Moines stories

No stories could be found

Des Moinespostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Des Moines.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more