Charter group OKs contracts for new schools

2 schools to open in August

The Lafayette Charter Foundation met Thursday to approve contracts to acquire property and start construction of two schools the foundation plans to open in August.

The foundation joined with the charter management company, Charter Schools USA, to open three schools in Lafayette Parish. The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved the schools in October after the Lafayette Parish School Board rejected the foundation’s application.

According to the contracts, the first two schools will sit on about 6.5 acres and measure nearly 72,000 square feet.

Lafayette Renaissance Academy will be in Couret Farms, a neighborhood under development in north Lafayette, and Acadiana Renaissance Academy is to be built in the Sugar Mill Pond neighborhood in Youngsville.

The third school, a high school, is planned for 2017 and will be in south Lafayette Parish.

On Thursday, the foundation entered an agreement with Ryan Companies US, a Minnesota construction contractor that will purchase property and build the two schools.

Upon completion, the contractor plans to sell the buildings to Red Apple Development, a sister company of Charter Schools USA, and the foundation will lease the sites from Red Apple, said Gary McGoffin, the foundation board’s attorney.

Rent amounts in the 20-year agreements approved Thursday aren’t expected to change when the foundation contracts with Red Apple, but are subject to final negotiations, McGoffin said.

In the contract for the north Lafayette school, monthly rent starts out at $71,660, rising to $112,710 monthly in the second year. The rent amount increases incrementally, so that by year 10, it iss $126,967 a month. By year 20, the monthly rent is $147,351.

The contract for the south Lafayette school sets the monthly rent at $73,155 for the first year and $115,061 in the second year. By year 10, the monthly rent is $129,616, rising to $150,424 in year 20.

McGoffin said the school estimates it will receive about $8,000 per student in state funding. A percentage of its allocation will cover operating costs, including lease payments, McGoffin said.

Also, at the meeting the board accepted the resignation of board member Jay Chase and appointed Charles Fenstermaker to the board. The board is also seeking nominations to fill a seat left open by the resignation of founding board member, state 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal Chief Judge Ulysses “Gene” Thibodeaux.

The board was set to discuss its budget and schedule its 2014 meeting dates, however, those decisions were not finalized Thursday.

Board President Mary Louella Cook said the next meeting is tentatively set for Jan. 14 at South Louisiana Community College’s Devalcourt Street campus.

Dates for informational sessions for the community are also tentative and will soon be released. The schools’ websites are expected to go live next month and the student enrollment period for both schools is set from Feb. 1-March 14.

The board also said it hopes to soon finalize a temporary office space, which board member Carlos Harvin requested be centrally located between the two school sites to ensure easy accessibility to the community and interested families.

“We want to send the message that we’re two schools with one purpose,” Harvin said.

Another charter school started by a separate organization, Louisiana Achievement Charter Academies, is also set to open in Lafayette in August. That school will operate in partnership with National Heritage Academies, a charter management company based in Michigan.