New charter school set to open in Baker

The old Baker Wal-Mart will reopen in August as Advantage Charter Academy.

The charter school is part of Louisiana Achievement Charter Academies, a small network of schools that, for now, only includes one other location — Willow Charter Academy in Lafayette, also set for an August opening.

The LACA board met Monday in Baton Rouge to approve the number of seats it will open for application at both schools and its admissions and enrollment policy.

The nonprofit board partnered with National Heritage Academies, a Michigan-based charter school management company that will operate the schools in Lafayette and Baker.

The old Wal-Mart building is under contract, but the sale has not been finalized, said Megan DeKraker, NHA new charter school development director.

Parents can learn more about the schools during informational meetings planned for Baker and Lafayette at the end of the month, though dates and meeting sites have not been finalized.

At Advantage Charter, there will be 464 seats offered while at Willow Charter in Lafayette, a total of 492 seats will be offered.

DeKraker told board members that the seats are conservative estimates and less seats were made available in the upper grades based on first-year enrollments at other NHA charters.

“Our experience is that fourth- and fifth-grade parents are less likely to leave their schools,” she said.

Both schools will expand by adding a grade each year through the eighth grade.

For now, plans for both schools are on target with negotiations underway for property purchases, DeKraker said after the meeting.

A letter of intent to purchase an existing property to house the Lafayette school has been signed, but details of the site location won’t be released until a contract is finalized, DeKraker said.

Board member Walter Morales asked how contractors tackle the issue of ensuring classrooms have adequate natural light when they renovate big box stores.

DeKraker said designers are innovative and use skylights or devise other designs to add natural light to classroom space.

Board members Morales and Jay Miller, of Lafayette, said they were encouraged with developments in both Lafayette and Baker.

“We yield to their expertise and their lead time on a site,” said Miller, pastor of Family Life Church. “They’re telling us we’re on target with everything.”

DeKraker said new construction typically takes 20 weeks and renovation requires less time.

“We feel really positive about where we are timeline-wise,” she said.

The board’s next meeting will be Feb. 10 in Lafayette at the offices of Family Life Church.