Crestworth Learning Academy will not be closed even though its students will be bused to Glen Oaks Middle School for the first part of the school year until repairs can be made at Crestworth, Recovery School District officials told parents and community members Tuesday.
“We are going to keep that school open,” said Dana Peterson, deputy superintendent of external affairs for the Recovery School District. “This is not a back door to closing the school We want that community to have a good middle school.”
In some cases, plumbing had been pulled off of walls and ceiling and floor tiles were missing, Peterson said.
A report from state Fire Marshal Butch Browning’s office found numerous major problems July 6, including fire exit doors chained shut and fire extinguishers that had not been properly inspected.
A return visit Monday showed the problems had not been addressed.
Peterson said he was hopeful that the repairs could be accomplished in 60 days, but said he didn’t want to commit to that timeline.
The Recovery School District took control of the school July 1. Previously, it had been run as a charter school with a board of directors made up of members from Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church, who disputed the allegations made by Recovery School District officials.
The school could be ready for business, “if certain minor things are being done,” a former member of the charter school’s board of directors, Morgan Watson, told the dozens of parents gathered at the meeting. “This is nothing more than routine maintenance.”
Watson admitted the school had some financial problems, but disputed that an unpaid $18,000 electric bill was the charter school’s fault.
“When (the Recovery School District) took over the school, they told us to leave the lights on,” he said.
Peterson said repairs on the school could not begin until the situation with the unpaid utility bill has been completely resolved.
“I can’t have a contractor in there working on the school when the lights might go out at any minute,” he said.
During the 90-minute meeting, organized by Councilwoman Tara Wicker and the civic association Community against Drugs and Violence, attendees were asked to write down questions on note cards.
The questions were then read so that Recovery School District officials or Crestworth Learning Academy Principal Ericka Jones could answer them.
Many of the questions concerned the safety of Crestworth students at Glen Oaks.
The two student bodies will be kept separate, including in the cafeteria and gym, and there will be extra security guards on duty, Jones said.
Athletic and academic programs will not be affected by the move, she said.
Several other questions concerned transportation.
Children who rode buses to Crestworth will be able to catch the bus to school, but may have to do it earlier, said Keith Washington, an operations manager for Baton Rouge Commuter Service, who has contracted with the Recovery School District.
The earliest pickup will be at 5:35 a.m., he said.
Charlene Prophet, whose son is in the seventh grade at Cresworth, said her son will have to catch the bus at 6 a.m.
She lives within walking distance of Crestworth, and said the early pickup would be a “transition.”
Latoris Duncan, whose daughter is in the eighth grade at Crestworth, said she had concerns about there being fights between the two school groups at Glen Oaks, but that the meeting eased some of those concerns.