BRCC comes to rescue of BR career-oriented high school

High school to remain open another year

A career-oriented high school in Baton Rouge on the verge of closing this month will remain open at least one more year thanks to a lifeline thrown its way from an unexpected source, Baton Rouge Community College.

The chancellor for the community college, Andrea Miller, has offered to provide Career Academy space for about 250 students at the former Capitol Area Technical College, 3250 N. Acadian Thruway East, now known as the BRCC’s Acadian Campus.

“The mission of the school is aligned with the programming and training of the Acadian campus and I am committed to a long-term mutually beneficial partnership,” Miller wrote in a letter dated Tuesday.

The campus offers training in everything from machine tools to cosmetology.

Nancy Roberts, executive director of the Louisiana Resource Center for Educators, said the Career Academy informed students, parents and staff of the good news Wednesday.

“We are thrilled and excited about the partnership,” said Roberts, who helped found the charter school in summer 2011. “This is going to be great for the kids.”

The news was bleak earlier this month. Unable to find a place to hold school this fall, the school’s board of directors voted on April 16 to close the doors of Career Academy when this school year ends in late May, but delayed a decision on rescinding the school’s charter in case a facility emerged later.

Parents and students pleaded with the school’s administrators to find some way to keep the school open at a meeting that night.

Roberts has spent years trying find a permanent home for the school.

Career Academy holds its core classes at the former Brookstown Elementary School, 4375 E. Brookstown Drive, but offers automotive, welding, scaffolding and culinary classes at Capitol High School, 1000 N. 23rd St.

Roberts sought unsuccessfully through the state-run Recovery School District to let the school make Capitol High its permanent home. Most recently, she tried in vain to work out an agreement with the charter school management group that RSD has authorized to start a school this fall at Capitol High — Friendship Public Charter School, of Washington, D.C.

Roberts said Miller earlier this week immediately saw the value of Career Academy after paying a visit to the school and quickly made an offer.

“By allowing the Career Academy high school to locate on our campus, opportunities will be created and enhanced for the benefit of the students and the families of the capital area,” Miller wrote in her letter.

LRCE began developing the school in 2007 as a way to meet demand from local employers for skilled labor. LRCE brought together a consortium of industry leaders to help form the school.

It hasn’t been easy.

Career Academy has undergone a succession of leaders, changes in teaching staff, high-profile student fights and low test scores even as it has struggled to find a permanent home.

The school got an F academic rating from the state its first two years in operation and its score actually decreased in year two, even as many other local schools improved.

Despite its negative label, though, the charter school’s enrollment has continued to increase.

The current leadership of the school said they have turned things around and the school is on track to improve its letter grade in the next two years.

The school has limited time. The East Baton Rouge Parish school system will review its five-year charter this fall and could end that contract early if it finds the school is not showing sufficient academic growth.