Campuses on target for August opening
Leaders of the two groups who won their appeal with the state education board to open charter schools in Lafayette Parish said they are securing sites for three of the schools so they can open by August.
The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved the applications from Lafayette Charter Foundation to open two K-8 schools by August and a high school by 2017, and an application from Louisiana Achievement Charter Academies to open one K-8 school by August and another K-8 school in 2015.
Lafayette Charter Foundation’s schools will be managed by Charter Schools USA, which signed letters of intent to purchase property for its one of its K-8 schools in the northern part of the parish in the new neighborhood development of Couret Farms. and for its other K-8 school in the existing neighborhood development of Sugar Mill Pond.
Both schools are on target for an August opening, said Mary Louella Cook, president of the Lafayette Charter Foundation.
Louisiana Achievement Charter Academies is a statewide network of schools that will be operated by National Heritage Academies, said Jay Miller, one of two Lafayette Parish residents who serves on the LACA board.
Two properties in north Lafayette have been identified as potential school sites, he said.
Miller said his group is considering new construction or the renovation of an existing building.
“The two areas we’re looking at now on the north side are extremely close to the at-risk children we’re hoping to reach and the families that we’re trying to provide for,” Miller said.
The applications faced harsh criticism from teacher-members of the Lafayette Parish Association of Educators and Swamp BESE, a parent group organized in opposition to the applications over concerns about the financial impact on the district, particularly to the district’s schools of choice programs.
The Swamp BESE group made another appeal to BESE members to vote against the charters in a letter issued Wednesday.
“What charter schools run by for-profit management corporations provide is not ‘choice’, but an increased privatization of a service that should be provided by and supported by a community,” the letter stated.
Another critique of the charter school applications involved the lack of transportation services provided to students and the proposed locations of the Lafayette Charter Foundation’s schools in upper-income neighborhood developments.
Cook said Wednesday that the charters will be held accountable to state and federal guidelines that require the schools to serve a high percentage of at-risk students.
Cook and Miller said their boards will take the concerns about whether at-risk families will have access to the schools due to transportation issues into consideration in their planning.
“We must follow the policy,” Cook said. “For the students who are possibly not able to reach our schools, we will be looking at and discussing transportation possibilities.”
Miller said his group is working on locating the school close to at-risk neighborhoods.
“We are looking at exact locations that will be literally within walking distance to our schools,” Miller said.
Part of the groups’ work also involves hashing out a contract with the state to operate in the parish.
The Lafayette Parish School Board rejected both groups’ applications last month to operate charter schools in the parish.
The rejection enabled the groups to apply for authorization from BESE to operate in the parish as Type 2 charters with oversight by the state.
Charter schools are independent public schools that receive public funding.
As Type 2 charters, public funding will flow through BESE to the schools.