Lafayette charter school using lottery to fill some slots

After being put on waiting lists for two Lafayette Parish school system programs, Amanda Ashford was relieved when her daughter’s name was drawn Thursday for a spot at a new charter school planned just blocks from where her daughter attends school now.

“She’s at a failing school — J.W. Faulk,” Ashford said.

She said she applied for everything that was available, including “schools of choice” operated by the public school system and the three privately operated charter schools that will open in Lafayette Parish in August.

Ashford’s daughter, MacKenzie, a kindergartner who will be going into the first grade, was selected through a lottery for one of the 492 spots at Willow Charter Academy.

A total of 538 applications were received for the 492 seats at Willow Charter, prompting the need for a computerized lottery to select students for each grade level, said Andy Glantzman, parental relations manager for National Heritage Academies, a Michigan charter school management company.

Parents have two weeks to let the school know whether they’ll accept the spot.

Ashford said she plans to accept the spot rather than wait on other options since Willow Charter is closer to their neighborhood. Willow Charter will open in grades kindergarten through fifth and expand to a K-8 school.

Following Thursday’s lottery, there were 11 seats still open in the first grade and waiting lists were started for the other grades through fifth.

Those 11 spots could fill up, and the waiting lists will likely grow as applications submitted after the March 31 initial deadline will now be processed, Glantzman said.

In addition, more applications continue to be submitted online, Glantzman said.

Natasha Narcisse said she hopes at least one spot opens for her daughter, who is in the fifth grade. Her daughter is one of 57 students on the waiting list after the lottery.

She said she hasn’t decided yet but might apply for a spot for her daughter at the other two charter schools that also will open in August.

Those two charter schools are operated by a different charter management company, Charter Schools USA.

One of the schools will open in Youngsville near Sugar Mill Pond, and the other in Couret Farms off of Pont des Mouton Road.

The Lafayette Parish School Board rejected the charter school applications last year, though the school organizers received approval to open the schools by the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Critics of the schools oppose the management by private businesses with public funding. The schools are funded like other public schools with a share of local taxes and state per pupil funding — as is the case with other public school in the district.

Superintendent Pat Cooper supported the schools, citing the need to manage growth in the southern part of the parish and for new school buildings.

Nearly 2,000 applications were submitted to the three schools. It’s not known how many parents submitted applications to more than one school. Dates for lotteries for the Charter Schools USA schools had not been set as of Thursday afternoon.

As part of Willow Charter’s lottery process, siblings of students selected in the lottery received priority placement — either in their grade level, if there was still an open spot, or on the waiting list if there was no open spot.

Willow Charter Academy will be housed in the former Albertson’s grocery store off Evangeline Thruway, which is slated to be extensively renovated over the next few months.

The two schools that will be operated by Charter Schools USALafayette Renaissance Charter Academy and Acadiana Renaissance Charter Academy — are under construction.

At least two more charter schools will open in the parish in the next four years.

National Heritage Academies plans to open another K-6 school in the Broussard area, and Charter Schools USA plans to open a high school.

The school board received only one charter school application this year, which will likely be considered by June.

The application by Kingdom Builder Community Development Corp. is to open a career and technical high school in 2015.